Connolly instrumental in St Vincent's title win
St Vincent’s 4-12 Castlebar Mitchells 2-11
Diarmuid Connolly laid on a majestic performance at Croke Park, hitting a 2-5 tally to guide St Vincent’s to glory in the All-Ireland Club football final.
All seven of the scores came from play, but his finishing was only part of the story, as the Dublin star tormented the Castlebar defence all afternoon with his strong running, vision and creativity.
Michael Concar and Ciaran Dorney also hit the net as the Metropolitans lifted their third title in a fast and open decider.
Castlebar went in as underdogs, but pushed the Leinster champions all the way, and were in front late in the third quarter after Danny Kirby had netted the first of his two goals.
However, the superior class, quality and strength in depth of the St Vincent’s side shone through in the end as they took control in the closing stages.
The westerners suffered a blow after just four minutes when county player Richie Feeney picked up a black card for a late blocking challenge.
Almost immediately, the Dubliners nearly grabbed a goal when Connolly used his searing pace to cut in from the right to get his shot away, but Ciaran Naughton was quickly off his line to save with his feet.
St Vincent’s did hit the net in the ninth minute, Connolly again at the centre of the action, unselfishly offloading to charging wing back Michael Concar, who side-footed to the net on the run.
Behind by 1-2 to 0-2, the Mitchells responded defiantly to that setback and reeled off six points on the spin to go ahead.
Soaking up pressure to counter with pace on the break, they crafted a point for Neil Lydon, with Aidan Walsh and Neil Douglas also finding the target as they went level at the end of a frantic opening quarter.
Lydon eased them ahead, and it was wing back Patriuck Durcan who opened out a two points lead.
But St Vincent’s struck for a second goal in the 26th minute. Connolly was once again the creator, picking out Ciaran Dorney at the far post, and the full forward had the easiest of tasks in palming home.
They could have had another couple of goals, but for Ciaran Naughton’s excellent saves from Dorney and Ruairi Trainor.
The sides went in level at the break on 2-3 to 0-9, but Vincent’s hit the front again when Connolly’s strong running set up Mossie Quinn for his first score of the afternoon.
With Concar always willing to press from deep, the Leinster champions continued to press, Connolly making it four points without reply with a quality effort as they eased into a three points lead.
However, Castlebar got themselves right back into contention on 41 minutes when Danny Kirby’s alertness saw him pick up the rebound and net from close range after Neil Douglas’s effort had come back off an upright.
A minute later, that score was wiped out by Connolly as he rose high to punch Trainor’s sideline ball to the net.
There was another goal chance for the Leinster men when Connolly’s effort came back off a post, but Concar scuffed his effort on the rebound and Naughton was able to clear the danger
The title was sealed for the north Dublin side when Connolly capped a monumental display with a spectacular goal, his second and his side’s fourth, eight minutes from the end.
A well organised Vincent’s defence, superbly marshalled by Ger Brennan, held their opponents scoreless for a quarter of an hour until Kirby punched home his second goal in the 56th minute to give his side a glimmer of hope.
St. Vincent's: M Savage, K Bonnie, J Curley, H Gill, G Brennan, B Egan, M Concar (1-0), D Murphy, E Fennell, G Burke, D Connolly (2-5), S Carthy (0-3), R Trainor (0-1), C Dorney (1-0), T Quinn (0-2, 1f).
Subs: T Diamond for Burke, C Diamond for Fennell, K Golden (0-1, f) for Trainor, A Baxter for Dorney, N Mullins for Carthy
Castlebar Mitchells: C Naughton, A Feeney, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley, D Newcombe, T Cunniffe, P Durcan (0-2), G McDonagh, B Moran (0-1), N Lydon (0-3), A Walsh (0-1), R Feeney, D Kirby (2-0), N Douglas (0-1), T King (0-2, 2f).
Subs: F Durcan (0-1) for R Feeney (BC), K Filan for F Durcan
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).