Vincent’s have the legs on Craobh
St. Vincent’s 2-14 – 1-10 Craobh Chiaráin
After initially struggling against their local rivals, Croabh Chiaráin, Vincent’s prevailed by a seven point margin you scarcely could have imagined with forty minutes on the clock as they trailed by two.
For the most part, on a misty day, as each side tried to “pick and poke” their way through zonal defences, it was a game only a tactician could enjoy.
Croabh had initially appeared to have continued from exactly where they left off against O’Toole’s as their solid system saw them frustrate the life out of Vincent’s early on, choking off the Marino men as they tried to play ball through the middle third.
With Stephen Kirwan positioned as sweeper again, covering the angles methodically and conductng the orchestra from there, and Alan McCrabbe getting on ball all around the half forward line, Craobh would take a five point to one lead by the 12th minute.
Vincents’ cause wasn’t helped early on, and indeed, throughout the the first half by giving away some terribly needless frees.
Despite getting the quick puck-outs off, they weren’t turning any into scores, with Croabh efficently pressing their half back line, even with a man less, playing a 7-2-5.
Mind you, it wasn’t all one way traffic. Vin’s had only converted one out of five shots by the quarter hour mark, albeit none of their misses being easy shots, on account of the distance and intense pressure they faced.
By the quarter hour mark, with Rúairí Trainor covering the angles, as the spare man in Vincent’s defence (on account of Craobh playing with five up front), Vincent’s began to work the ball around their half back line more efficiently, and create better scoring chances, bringing the scores back to 0-6 to 0-3, with full forward, John Hetherenton beginning to win ball up front.
However, with Conor Ryan controlling the midfield, Croabh still looked on top, before Vincent’s were hauled back into the game when Conor Burke finished deftly to the corner when he reacted first to a pointed attempt coming back off the upper post, striking first time after the ball bounced.
Craobh hit back, however, when Paul Kelly doubled on an unlikely strike at an awkward angle, mid-air, to the Vincent’s net, to leave Craobh with a 1-8 to 1-5 half time lead. You couldn’t have argued with their value for a three point lead.
The early stages of the second half weren’t any more beautiful to watch as the sides traded two points each before things began to swing significantly in Vincents’ favour before the three quarter mark.
Two significant elements began to swing in their favour. Firstly, after a first half where Diarmuid Connolly’s touch had looked like that of a hurler who had been playing football for the last five months, he began to look like a seasoned pro, dominating the midfield.
Within a five minute period, he made a statement as he floored Craobh’s main man McCrabbe, legitimately in the eyes of the ref, before scoring two fantastic points. The second was courtesy of a brilliant solo effort, struck off his stick, after a superb catch, conjuring up the magic we’re used to seeing from him on the football field.
This point garnered off the puck-out, would prove poignant as it was illustrative of the key pattern of the final twenty minutes.
Vincents’ quick puck-out which had previously failed to turn into scores, had taken its toll on the intense pressuring Craobh side. All of a sudden, Vincent’s appeared to have time and space all over the field they previously hadn’t.
With their half back line becoming dominant and Cian McBride making the moves from wing forward, they would become completely dominant running up 1-7 to no score in the final twenty minutes.
In the same period, Craobh would record ten wides/short attempts at the posts, a symptom of the pressure they now faced, and tiring legs.
Vincent’s stroking the ball around nonchalantly in the latter stages betrayed the highly efficient structure they had faced up to the fortieth minute.
You couldn’t argue with Vincent’s game-plan, however, with veteran selector, Mickey Whelan’s stamp all over the fast puck-out tactics which ground Craobh down.
Cian McBride’s low strike to the net with four minutes remaining was merely the icing on the cake.
ST VINCENT’S: D Russell; J Cooke, R Trainor, M O’Keeffe; S McCaw, M O’Farrell, T Connolly; D Connolly, R McBride; C McBride, A Moore, G Giblin; C Burke, J Hetherton, K Connolly. Subs: C Billings for Moore (39), R Fallon for Hetherton (39), W Lowry for Giblin (47), F O’Sullivan for K Connolly (62).
CRAOBH CHIARAIN: S Chester; S Finnegan, E Farrell, J Ryan; S Kelly, S Kirwan, D Kelly;C Ryan, R Mahon; K Hetherton, M McGuirk, K Ryan; P Kelly, F Usanga, A McCrabbe. Subs: Damian O’ Reilly for J Ryan (inj, 29), C McGowan for McGuirk (50), M Hayes for K Ryan (52), Derek O’Reilly for McGowan (inj, 58).
*full analysis to follow*
By Stephen O’Meara