AIB Munster Club Senior Football Championship Semi-Final – Dr. Crokes (Kerry) 2-11 Aherlow (Tipperary) 0-9

Amazing escape for Crokes

Dr Crokes (Kerry) 2-11 Aherlow (Tipperary) 0-09

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, November 22, 2010

IF ever a final scoreline told a blatant lie, this was it. At half-time of this defence-dominated Munster club SFC semi-final in Cashel yesterday, red-hot favourites Dr Crokes trailed by three points, 0-6 to 0-3, and a major shock looked on the cards. After 60 minutes, heading into the three signalled minutes of injury-time, they had managed just one more score – a very fortunate goal – and still trailed by two points, 0-8 to 1-3. In the fourth minute of that injury-time, however, Crokes centre-back Luke Quinn stole forward for his second point in two minutes and denied Aherlow a win that even the most partisan of Crokes supporters would not have begrudged them.

So to extra time. With Aherlow out on their feet after a colossal physical effort, it was one-way traffic; a second soft goal, a succession of points, and the expected result was realised. “That was by the skin of our teeth!” said a relieved Shane Myers, man-of-the-match for Crokes. “We had heard stories about how tough these boys are, and they really put it up to us – we were very lucky to get the draw at full-time. “Fair dues to the boys, they put their shoulder to the wheel in extra-time and we got through. But two lucky goals – we’ll take them! The physicality was huge, their sheer physical strength. We got through it in the end but we had work very hard for every single score. It was a battle right to the finish.”

It was actually that sheer physical effort that cost Aherlow, ultimately. Crokes are a running/passing/possession team, patient in the build-up, but they got no space yesterday, no time on the ball, as every Aherlow player on the pitch ran himself to a standstill. Three points was all Crokes managed in the first half with Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper man-marked brilliantly by Tipp senior Ciarán McDonald, while full-forward Barry Grogan and midfielder Stuart Moloney each kicked two excellent points for Aherlow, contributing handsomely to that three-point half-time lead.

It was the same story in the second half as the Gooch was forced outfield where his footballing genius became apparent and he pulled the strings for Crokes. Aherlow were still closing off every avenue of attack so much so that Crokes were struggling even to get out of their own half. Were it not for the goal – a long ball in the 38th minute by wing-forward Andrew Kenneally that deceived keeper Brian Moroney – it would have been a shut-out for the second half and those two injury-time Quinn points would have counted for nothing.

In these heavy conditions that work-rate was simply unsustainable for an extra 20 minutes, and where Crokes were in the luxury position of being able to introduce subs of the calibre of Kieran O’Leary, Ambrose O’Donovan and Shane O’Neill in normal time, all of whom contributed handsomely to their cause, the little club from the Aherlow glens was far more restricted and came up short. Nevertheless, it was a proud day for them, and for manager Liam Kearns though he wasn’t best pleased with the man in the middle. “I did say we were going to give them loads, and I expected we’d win this game – I’m gutted for the players. There’s no way Crokes should have got out of here with a win – we played them off the park for 60 minutes, we couldn’t have played any better. I thought the referee played for the draw, which is very disappointing from our point of view. He signalled three minutes of injury-time, played four, and where he got it from I don’t know. It was such an injustice, but that’s what always seems to happen to underdogs. I’m fierce proud of my players, they were brilliant to a man. I gave them a game-plan and they followed it better than any county team I’ve ever had. “Crokes didn’t know where they were so much of that game, didn’t know what was happening – I’m so proud of those players, and gutted for them now.”

Scorers for Dr Crokes: L Quinn 1-2; J Buckley 0-3; K O’Leary 0-3; A Kenneally 1-0; D Casey (free), C Cooper (free), B Looney, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Aherlow: B Grogan 0-4 (0-1 free); S Moloney 0-3; B O’Brien, T Hanley, 0-1 each.

DR. CROKES: C Cronin; D O’Leary, M Moloney, J Payne; S Myers, L Quinn, S Doolan; J Buckley, B McMahon; A Kenneally, E Brosnan, B Looney (c); C Cooper, D Casey, C Brady.

Subs: K O’Leary (Brady 44); A O’Donovan (Looney 53); S O’Neill (Kenneally 60+1); B Looney (McMahon 76); N O’Connell (Brosnan 78).

AHERLOW: B Moroney; M O’Brien, M Hanley, Ciarán McDonald; Chris McDonald, C Dillon, S Mullins; J Hennessey, S Moloney; B O’Brien, S Grogan, L Coskeran; T Hanley, B Grogan, D Peters.

Subs: C O’Shea (T Hanley 44); T Fahey (B O’Brien 57); B O’Brien (Coskeran 69); T Hanley (M O’Brien 75).

Referee: R Hickey (Eire Óg, Ennis)