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Cambridge Parnells through to Hertfordshire Senior Football Championship semi-finals to face Éire Óg Oxford after win against St Dympnas

Cambridge Parnells will feature in the semi-finals of the Hertfordshire Senior Football Championship for the first time since 2015 following a solid 1-13 (16 points) to 2-6 (12 points) win over a spirited St Dympnas in Watford on Sunday.

Both sides came into the final group game with a win and a loss apiece, setting up a winner-takes-all affair at the Radlett Road Gaelic Ground, where Cambridge held their nerve.

The Parnells built a commanding lead in the first half and, despite losing a man in the second period, were able to see out a physical and intense game to seal their progression to the last four.

Cambridge Parnells have progressed through to the semi-finals
Cambridge Parnells have progressed through to the semi-finals

The Parnells went a point up within a few seconds of the game starting when Conor Egan released his fellow wing-forward Luke Duffy, who jinked inside to score off his weaker foot.

Tit-for-tat in the opening 15 minutes, a well-worked point from midfielder Cormac Breen was sandwiched in between scores from free kicks for Dympnas pair Owen Murphy and Scott Berry. The Luton outfit did have some dangerous attacks in this period but were guilty of some bad wides and also came up against some strong goalkeeping from Diarmuid McGowan.

All square going into the second part of the opening half, Cambridge went on a hot streak. Duffy popped over a simple free before slotting home past Aaron Livingstone after being released by a kick pass from captain Barry Grogan.

Into a groove, influential centre forward Robbie Fitzpatrick collected the following kickout and scored his first point of the day to stretch the Cambridge lead to five. Fitzpatrick then almost grabbed another goal for the Parnells but his shot crept over the bar for a single point/

While much of the Cambridge attacking play had been based around intricate hand-passing, full-forward Grogan was able to mix things up and barged through two Dympnas defenders to lash over another point followed by a final long-range score from Breen to leave the Parnells leading by eight at half-time.

On a gusty day, Cambridge faced the breeze in the second half, as well as a Dympnas side fighting to keep their season alive. After a scrappy start, a point from Breen stretched the lead to nine but this was immediately cancelled out by a free for Berry before the hugely impressive Sean McMonagle broke through from midfield and boomed over his side’s fourth score of the day.

Responding well, Cambridge recycled possession to good effect and kept the scoreboard ticking over. First, Fitzpatrick ghosted into space to knock a shot over before man-of-the-match Duffy added another two to bring his tally to 1-4 for the day.

Breen would curl over his fourth, a long-range free, to put Cambridge 11 points up with 15 minutes to go and Greg McNeill then almost had a dream debut, only for the substitute to be denied by a fantastic double stop from Livingstone.

The cushion would turn out to be needed as the closing exchanges were not without drama. Powerful Parnells midfielder Joe Bradley was shown a red card for a second bookable offence and Dympnas responded by going for broke.

First McMonagle pointed before veteran forward Paul Gallen slammed home a goal to reduce the arrears further. Grogan squeezed over a final Parnells point to somewhat stem the Dympnas surge but the aerial bombardments continued.

Gallen had another goal chance but blazed over to bring the deficit down to seven but the clock was against the Luton men. Backs against the wall, player-manager John Hickey marshalled the Cambridge defence well from full-back while wing-backs Colin Crowley and Mick Purdy offered vital relieving runs.

Ball after ball rained down on the Parnells goal area but, with all 14 remaining players back defending, Dympnas could not break through until the final seconds of the game as Aaron Jarvis bundled home a second three-pointer for his side.

Speaking afterwards, Hickey said: “It’s a great result for the club and a testament to the lads that we were able to win against a strong side like Dympnas without playing to our best.”

Parnells will face Éire Óg Oxford in the Hertfordshire Senior Football Championship semi-final on Sunday, September 18 in Waltham Cross.

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