South Dublin Swans tame Lions in thriller
South Dublin Swans are the 2021 AFL Ireland Premiership winners for the sixth time in their history after an incredible, high scoring victory over a gallant Leeside Lions last Saturday afternoon at dry and warm Trinity College Sports Grounds, Santry. It was a game the Swans nearly lost in normal time when down by 12 points deep into the final quarter, however in the final two minutes they managed to get the two goals required to force extra time. In those extra 20 minutes they ran away from a shell shocked Lions who must have thought they had the job done to win the John Locke O’Sullivan Cup.
The game was expected to be a tight contest after only eight points separated the sides in their most recent meeting in Dublin in September. The pre-match expectation was that the Swans’ tall forwards that shone in the preliminary final victory the previous week would again dominate the goal scoring, however it was small forward and captain, Seamus Owens that got the two first quarter goals. Despite Seamus’s efforts it did not prevent the Lions racing into a 3.0 18 to 2.3 15 quarter time advantage thanks to some accurate shooting from Paudie O’Connell and the Lions front line.
The second quarter again saw the Swans smalls come to the fore with Owens getting another two goals and staking an early claim for best on ground. For the Lions, key defender and current Irish international, Paul Murphy had been particularly effective sweeping up any Swans forward entries while small forward Padraig O’Connell was making life hard for the Swans defence. The ever impressive Connor Dunne scored 2 goals of his own for the Swans in the second quarter. However at the other end, despite the best efforts of their defence, the Lions also scored four goals to leave the half time score Swans 6.7 43 to Lions 7.3 45.
The Lions brought on their experienced stalwart, Ian O’Sullivan after half time. He was instrumental in regaining control of the footy in the midfield while Paul Murphy continued his fine form in the sweeper role just in front of the defence. They kicked four goals to the Swans two with more good work being done by Lions midfielders Kevin Jones and James Daly. Again for the Swans it was the smalls scoring with Dunne bagging his third goal of the game and 2021 AFL Ireland Best and Fairest winner Keith Whelan getting the other. This left the three quarter time score at 8.7 55 to 11.4 70 in favour of the Lions. Incidentally this was their biggest lead of the contest. A massive boost for the Munster men heading into the final term.
It could not have been a worse start to the final quarter for the Swans with the Lions getting the first goal to push nearly four goals clear. However the tall forwards finally got going for the Swans with Aussie Drew Baldwin getting his first followed by former Wexford county midfielder Rory Quinlivan getting a six pointer of his own. Seamus Owens then got his fifth goal of the game, but despite the heroic efforts of the Swans to get back into it the Lions also got two more goals to maintain their three-quarter time advantage. One a fantastic soccer off the ground from Kevin Jones and another overhead effort by Padraig O’Connell which dealt a massive blow to the Dublin side. With just two minutes remaining it was desperate times for the Swans, then Cork native Gene Casey got a goal and gave Swans some hope. With less than 30 seconds left on the clock and despite desperate Lions defending somehow Keith Whelan popped up to snap a goal from 30 metres out to draw the Swans level and force extra time. Final score normal time, Swans 13.11 89 to Lions 14.5 89.
In the extra time, the switch of former UCD soccer goalkeeper Conor McGroarty from defence into attack yielded results instantly with the tiring Lions back men unable to contain the defender come attacker who got two goals in the first 10 minute half of extra time and Gavin Murray getting a third to outscore Lions 3.2 20 to 1.0 6 at the break. The two sides were nearing exhaustion at this point but still they fought on with another McGroarty goal putting too much daylight between the sides as the Swans eventually ran out convincing winners after extra time 17.13 115 to 15.6 96 for a 19 point Swans victory.
The Swans will cherish this win as possibility the greatest in the club’s history. Every Swan on the day had nothing left in the tank in a tremendous team effort over 100 minutes of footy. Special mentions go to captain Seamus Owens who led by example all day and was Swans top goal kicker with five, Connor Dunne, Rasmus Brunn, Gene Casey, Sammy Brady, Conor McGroarty and Darragh Devlin. For the Lions best on the day were Paul Murphy, Gerry Cronin, Kevin Jones, James O’Shea and James Daly. Ian O’Sullivan also played a massive role for the Lions after his introduction. They can be massively proud of their efforts for the 2021 season and the part they played in arguably the best AFL Ireland Grand final to date.
The South Dublin Swans are AFL Premiers for 2021, congratulations from all at AFL Ireland.