South Dublin Swans are the 2021 AFL Ireland Premiership winners for the sixth time in their history after an incredible, high scoring victory over Leeside Lions
Last Saturday afternoon at a dry and warm Trinity College Sports Grounds, Santry a thrilling match took place.
The Swans nearly lost this game in normal time when down by 12 points deep into the final quarter. However, in the final two minutes, they scored the two goals and forced 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 that the Swans won. 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.
The Lions raced into a 3.0 18 to 2.3 15 quarter time advantage.
The second quarter again saw the Swans’ smalls to the fore with Owens getting another two goals and staking an early claim for best on the ground.
Another Swans small midfielder, the impressive Connor Dunne got the other two Swans goals in the second quarter. However, at the other end, despite the best efforts of the defense, the Lions also scored four goals.
This left the half-time score Swans 6.7 43 to Lions 7.3 45.
Lions’ midfielders Kevin Jones and James Daly did some good work and they kicked four goals to the Swans’ two in the third quarter.
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 one.
This left the three-quarter time score a rather worrying one for the Swans at 8.7 55 to 11.4 70 to the Lions.
This was the largest advantage the Lions had in the game and unless the Swans rallied quickly it would be game over.
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. 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.
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.
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 meters 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 defense 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 South Dublin Swans eventually ran out convincing winners after extra time 17.13 115 to 15.6 96 for a 19-point Swans victory.
It was not all in vain for the Leesiders as their women’s team, the Cork Vikings had a convincing win in the Grand Final against Ulster Kookaburras.
Swans now look forward to being the Irish entry into the AFL Europe Champions League next April in Amsterdam, in only their second-ever appearance in that tournament.
To read more in-depth and up-to-date AFL and other sports news, click here.