GAA Football

Vincent's class can swing it

PREDICTING the defeat of castlebar Mitchel's has proved a decidedly unwise thing to do. Consider castlebar's route to today's showcase final in croke Park. Rank outsiders against corofin (connacht semi-final), St Brigid's (connacht final) and Dr croke's (All-ireland semi-final), the Mayo men have made a laughing stock of the bookmakers. The lack of a marquee scoring forward is the obvious weakness in Pat Holmes's team. Yet, castlebar have managed to paper over this major failing. Through sheer stubbornness and grit, they have bludgeoned their way to victory.

Of course it would be a mistake to simply depict castlebar as a team of proud, honest players who don't know when they are beaten.

Such a description would be a grave injustice. In tom cunniffe, Barry Moran and Richie Feeney they have three county players who routinely produce the goods for their club. in Alan Feeney (corner-back), eoghan O'reilly (full-back) gerard Mcdonagh (midfield) and tom King (corner forward) they have four top notch club players.

Mcdonagh's strength at midfield is demonstrated by the fact Barry Moran is often moved to the edge of the square where he acts as an effective target man. Tom King's scoring exploits with castlebar recently earned him a call up to the county panel. King, who played soccer in england and the League of Ireland, has since focused his efforts on gaelic football. Man-of-the-match in the county final against Breaffy, King has racked up 1-17 in his last three games. It goes without saying that castlebar cannot be dismissed lightly. After all, they have beaten the reigning All-Ireland champions (St Brigid's) and the favourites for this year's competition (dr croke's). Nevertheless, it's still extremely difficult to favour them against St Vincent's. in terms of character, the Dublin men appear to the equal of their Mayo counterparts. After scoring the last four points of a replayed county final, they won the Dublin title by a single point.

Having played two games in a week, St Vincent's met St Loman's of Westmeath for their third outing in a fortnight. Ger Brennan (centre half-back) and Diarmuid Connolly (centre half-back) missed the game through suspension. Not only did St Vincent's beat St Loman's without Brennan and connolly, the repeated the feat when they defeated Summerhill (Meath).

A groin injury prevented Brennan from playing against Ballinderry in the All-Ireland semi-final. The performance delivered by St Vincent's in that encounter gave a firm indication they are the champions elect. The power, pace and athleticism of the Tommy conroy's players is astonishing. The Marino men have the same strength and conditioning coach as the Ireland rugby team - and it shows. Tactically, they cover all the bases. In Eamon Fennell and Daithi Murphy, they have two midfielders who can contest primary possession. But St Vincent's love to run the ball, and goalkeeper Michael Savage is particularly adept at finding one of his corner-backs with a quick kick-out.

Ultimately, it's the strength of the St Vincent's forward line which should swing the game in their favour. Tomas Quinn, often an inconsistent performer at county level, is a different creature in a white and blue jersey. In the 60 minutes against Ballinderry, Diarmuid Connolly plunged the depths and hit the peaks. Two of his efforts went into the heavens. But once Connelly got into the groove, he landed three exquisite points. In terms of substance and pride, little seems to separate these teams. But the stardust provided by Quinn and Connolly should give St Vincent's a telling advantage.

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