Crokes claim Se­nior Club ti­tle af­ter ex­tra-time thriller

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - SPORT - PAUL BREN­NAN

COUNTY SE­NIOR CLUB FOOT­BALL FI­NAL

Dr Crokes 3-20 Ken­mare Sham­rocks 2-20 (af­ter ex­tra-time)

IF this was the aper­i­tif for the main course in a fort­night’s time then we can only imag­ine what awaits in the se­quel at the same venue on Sun­day week. With Dr Crokes and Ken­mare Sham­rocks due to meet in the quar­ter-fi­nal of the county SFC the week­end af­ter this nei­ther side could have been blamed if they wanted to keep some­thing of them­selves un­der wraps be­fore that all-im­por­tant knock­out show­down. Not a bit of it, how­ever. Of course, there was a county ti­tle and sil­ver­ware on of­fer in this Se­nior Club Fi­nal and if we know any­thing about this Dr Crokes team it’s that they sim­ply crave suc­cess. Ken­mare, too, have re­cently got the scent of suc­cess in their nos­trils so was this Club Fi­nal to by any­thing other than all out?

What­ever about lay­ing down a prece­dent for thei im­mi­nent County Cham­pi­onship meet­ing, this was a clash be­tween the reign­ing All-Ire­land Club cham­pi­ons and an emerg­ing team seek­ing some rare se­nior grade sil­ver­ware, notwith­stand­ing that they’ve won county Ju­nior and In­ter­me­di­ate ti­tles in re­cent times.

De­spite the amount of top qual­ity play­ers on show - Johnny Buckley, Daithi Casey, Stephen O’Brien, Paul O’Con­nor - this fi­nal was, in some re­spects, con­densed down to the face-off be­tween Colm Cooper and Sean O’Shea: two play­ers at either end of the age spec­trum with the lat­ter re­garded in some quar­ters as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for the for­mer to fill the no.11 jersey for Kerry. While that might be way too much ex­pec­ta­tion to put on a young man who has yet to play se­nior foot­ball for the county, O’Shea only en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion with a haul of 12 points, three from play and some ex­pertly con­verted frees into an un­for­giv­ing win. Cooper (two from play and four frees) was, as ex­pected, in­serted right in the mid­dle of the Dr Crokes ef­fort.

Play­ing with a strong wind in the first half, Dr Crokes would have wanted to put some day­light be­tween them­selves and Ken­mare be­fore the turn­around, and lead­ing by seven points, 2-11 to 2-4, at half time it seemed as if they’d built up enough of a cush­ion to get the job down in the sec­ond half. Ken­mare had other ideas, and a bril­liant col­lec­tive ef­fort saw them chip away at the deficit un­til they drew level and forced ex­tra-time.

A cou­ple of early points in ex­tra-time put Ken­mare in a good po­si­tion to cause an up­set but the fifth goal of the game fell to Crokes - from sub­sti­tute Am­brose O’Donovan - and that score was the dif­fer­ence in the end.

It took Ken­mare just four min­utes to raise the first green flag when Paul O’Con­nor and O’Brien com­bined bril­liantly for the lat­ter to tee up the ball for David Hal­lis­sey to slap past Shane Mur­phy to make it 1-1 to 0-2.

Four min­utes later - af­ter he had pushed the ball onto the cross­bar - Cooper’s qucik free set Buckley through to score Crokes’ first goal.

The Kil­lar­ney side led 1-4 to 1-2 when Micheal McCarthy slipped their de­fence to score an­other Ken­mare goal, and by the 19th minute it was all square, 1-6 to 2-3, with Ken­mare play­ing against that strong wind.

Crokes scored five of the next six points, along with a su­perb in­di­vid­ual goaol from Daithi Casey, to lead 2-11 to 2-4 at half time.

Af­ter four first half goals it seemed re­mark­able there was none scored in the next 30 min­utes but of the 17 sec­ond half points scored Ken­mare mined 12 of them, with O’Shea and O’Brien par­tic­u­larly cen­tral to the Sham­rocks’ come­back as they forced ex­tra-time af­ter a 2-16 to 2-16 fin­ish.

Sean O’Shea con­verted from a free and from play to edge Ken­mare into an ealry ex­tra-time lead but then Paul Clarke did very well to re­cy­cle Brian Looney’s shot to Casey who set up Am­brose O’Donovan for the de­ci­sive goal.

Sec­ond half points from Kieran O’Leary, Cooper (free), Casey and Tony Bros­nan sealed the deal for Crokes and handed them their first Se­nior Club ti­tle since 2014 af­ter back-to-back de­feats in the last two fi­nals.

A fas­ci­nat­ing con­test and pre­cur­sor to an even big­ger match next Satur­day week when the teams meet at the same venue for a plce in the semi-fi­nals of the County Cham­pi­onship.

DR CROKES: Shane Mur­phy, John Payne, Fionn Fitzger­ald, David O’Leary, Shane Doolan, Gavin White (0-1), Alan O’Sul­li­van, Johnny Buckley (1-1), Daithi Casey (1-3, 0-1f), Micheal Burns (0-4), Gavin O’Shea, Brian Looney (0-1), Colm Cooper (0-6, 4f), Chris Brady, Kieran O’Leary (0-2). Subs: Brian Fitzger­ald for S Doolan, Michael Molomey for C Brady, Luke Quinn for D O’Leary, Paul Clarke for G O’Shea, Am­brose O’Donovan for B Looney, Gavin O’Shea for B Fitzger­ald (ET), Brian Looney for M Burns (ET), Tony Bros­nan (0-1) for Looney.

KEN­MARE SHAM­ROCKS: Kieran Fitzgib­bon, Dara O’Shea, Tommy O’Sul­li­van, Dara Crow­ley, Matt Mur­nane, Sean O’Leary, Mark Crow­ley, David Hal­lis­sey (1-0), Shane O’Sul­li­van, Michael McCarthy (1-1), Sean O’Shea (0-12, 9f), Donal O’Con­nor (0-1), Kevin O’Sul­li­van (0-1), Paul O’Con­nor (0-4), Stephen O’Brien (01). Subs: Brian O’Sul­li­van for D O’Con­nor, Gavin O’Shea for M Mur­nane, Brian Clif­ford for M McCarthy.

REF­EREE: Peter Lyons (Cro­mane)

Colm Cooper Dr Crokes sur­rounded by Sean O’Leary, Gavin O’Shea and Kevin O’Sul­li­van Ken­mare in the Kerry County Se­nior Club Cham­pi­onship fi­nal at Fitzger­ald Sta­dium, Kil­lar­ney on Sun­day. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

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