Crokes claim Senior Club title after extra-time thriller
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