Dr Crokes 0-18 Mullinalaghta 2-7
KILCUMMIN delivered. Beaufort too. And Dr Crokes are living up to their side of the bargain as Kerry clubs bid for a clean sweep of the three club championship titles up for grabs this season.
But the Kerry and Munster senior champions had to dig deep into their reserves of guile, experience and sheer attacking potency to kill off a stubborn challenge from Mullinalaghta of Longford in a truly engrossing All-Ireland club championship semi-final in Thurles this afternoon.
Stung by two early goals and the devastating body blow of losing influential midfielder Johnny Buckley to a red card, in the first half, the odds were suddenly stacked against Pat O’Shea’s side but the tough got going and, despite the numerical disadvantage, in the circumstances they went on to produce one of their best performances they have delivered for many years to carve out a brilliant five-point win.
The black and amber clad supporters in the attendance of over 4,000 could have been forgiven for thinking they would be watching the March 17 parade in Killarney as, when Buckley was sidelined, it looked as if the great dream was about to die in Semple Stadium.
But with a lethal Crokes cocktail of pomp, style and grit, they moved up a gear and set about dismantling the small village side that has attained celebrity status since winning the Leinster championship.
A brilliant performance by the Killarney full forward line, which yielded 13 points in total, set the scene for this victory with Tony Brosnan top scoring on six points, Kieran O’Leary notching four and David Shaw registering three.
This great victory was fashioned from the back, however, with Gavin White’s solo bursts tormenting Mullinalaghta all afternoon, Fionn Fitzgerald turning in one of his best ever performance in a black and amber jersey and goalkeeper Shane Murphy reminding Peter Keane of his shot-stopping abilities with two super saves.
Mullinalaghta really put it up to Dr Crokes with an early Gary Rogers penalty after Dónal McElligott – who has strong Ballymac links – was hauled down and, although Crokes hit back, they were stunned again before the break when Jayson Matthews fisted the ball to the net moments before Johnny Buckley was red-carded.
But, really, that was as good as it got for the Longford side as Crokes put their vast experience to good use, playing a wise possession game, using the ball economically and picking off key scores at every available opportunity.
The strong running of Gavin White, Brian Looney, Micheál Burns and Daithi Casey put enormous strain on the Mullinalaghta defence and it was obvious to all observers that they would eventually crack under the pressure and they succumbed to a flurry of late points,
Crokes, who brought on Colm Cooper to dictate the pace after 50 minutes, will now meet reigning champions Corofin in the decider and Killarney will be awash with black and amber bunting alongside the green in the lead-up to what promises to be a very special St Patrick’s Day. And while the man with the beard in the green cassock will be the centre of attention at home, another Pat could be about to be canonised in Croke Park.
Scorers for Dr Crokes: Tony Brosnan 0-6 (0-4 frees), Kieran O’Leary 0-4, David Shaw 0-3, Daithí Casey 0-2 (0-1 free), Micheál Burns 0-1, Gavin O’Shea 0-1, Brian Looney 0-1.
Dr Crokes: Shane Murphy, John Payne, Mike Moloney, Fionn Fitzgerald, David O’Leary, Gavin White, Shane Doolan, Johnny Buckley, Daithí Casey, Micheál Burns,Gavin O’Shea, Brian Looney, Tony Brosnan, Kieran O’Leary, David Shaw.
Subs: Micheál Potts for Shane Doolan; Alan O’Sullivan for David O’Leary; Colm Cooper for Gavin O’Shea; Eoin Brosnan for Micheál Burns; Jordan Kiely for Tony Brosnan.
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