Moore the merrier

Dr Crokes 1-9 Moorefield 0-12
IT’S the nature of the business end of the All-Ireland club championship that the inches matter more. Pre-eminence is quarried more than established, and every catch, block, tackle and free is a building block to victory.

Therefore when Dr Crokes spurned a straight-forward free after 42 minutes that would have built a five-point lead over their defiant rivals, Moorefield, for a place in the All-Ireland final, you sensed they’d regret it.

It’s in Dr Crokes heritage to be bold and adventurous, and it’s the philosophy of their coach Pat O’Shea to play heads-up football. And at that moment, when Colm Cooper lifted his head, he saw wing forward Brian Looney loitering with intent close to goal. However, the latter shot tamely wide and this AIB All-Ireland club semi-final underwent a momentum-heave.

It wasn’t just that Patrick Murray pointed a free at the other end within a minute, or that 60 seconds later, Moorefield midfielder Darly Flynn surged through to reduce the deficit to 1-8 to 0-9. The Leinster champions were a manifestly better side over the 60 minutes; all they lacked was the conviction and self-belief to make their dominance count.

Even when the aforementioned Looney gave Dr Crokes a three-point lead in the last five minutes, it had no sense of closure about it. Moorefield just rolled up their sleeves further and inspirational points from centre-back Ger Naughton and outstanding full-forward, Jason Philips left them on the cusp. Patrick Murray sent the hugely partisan crowd of 4,500 into a frenzy with the equaliser, but failed with an injury-time free that would have given his side a deserved St Patrick’s Day outing against Crossmaglen. Now they must do with a return to the Gaelic Grounds, probably on Saturday, but without the awe for their opponents which afflicted their opening 20 minutes.

There is no better forward to prey on a defender’s nerves than Colm Cooper, and within eight minutes he had the Moorefield full back line all a-flutter. Ambrose O’Donovan’s punt into the full-forward line shouldn’t have deceived the defence but corner-back Pauric O’Flynn lost his bearings long enough for Cooper to slip home Crokes’ first score — a goal. It separated the sides for most of the first half, but in the ebb and flow of play, the Kildare side still had the upper hand.

They shifted Kevin O’Neill back onto Cooper at one end, and employed the rangy skills of their own full-forward, Jason Philips, at the other. Both ploys worked, though Crokes, typically, continued to engineer scoring opportunities off meagre supply to their forwards. Kieran O’Leary kicked a sublime point to give them a 1-3 to 0-3 lead, and James Fleming converted a free just before half-time to preserve a 1-5 to 0-6 interval advantage.

Crokes’ Michael Moloney made a better fist of Philips when belatedly switched onto the danger man for the second period, but just as important was the placing of Eoin Brosnan at centre-back, where he provided badly-needed cover.

The Kerry player was an inconsequential figure up to half-time, with Ambrose O’Donovan and Brian McMahon doing most of the necessary link work.

Cooper eased Dr Crokes 1-7 to 0-6 ahead with two early second half frees, and when James Fleming concluded a bout of Dr Crokes pressure with another point, the Kerry side were inching away from Moorefield. Another point at that stage may have left Sos Dowling’s men with too much leeway to make up.

"Maybe he could have fisted it over the bar," mused Pat O’Shea afterwards. "But the opportunity of a goal was there, and we never turn them down. We got goals against Nemo Rangers, but not this time."

Fleming missed a kickable free for Crokes too as their attacking forays became increasingly sporadic. The primary cause was the weight of Moorefield pressure, applied by a powerful last ten minutes from midfielder Daryl Flynn and an impressive cameo from substitute David Whyte.

The Crokes and Kerry coach will split his loyalties this week, but he was quick to acknowledge that Moorefield may be an even tougher ask next weekend. "When they have a bit of momentum, they are a very difficult side to stop," he accepted.

How difficult remains to be seen.

Dr Crokes scorers: C. Cooper (1-4, 3 frees), J. Fleming (0-2, 1 free), B. McMahon, B. Looney, K. O’Leary (0-1 each).

Moorefield scorers: P. Murray (0-5, 3 frees), J. Philips (0-2), G. Naughton, R. Glavin, D. Flynn, F. Hanniffy, P. Wolfe (0-1 each).

DR CROKES: K. Cremin; K. McMahon, L . Quinn, S. Doolan; B. Moriarty, M. Moloney, E. Kavanagh; A. O’Donovan, B. McMahon; B. Looney, A. Kennelly, J. Fleming; C. Cooper, E. Brosnan, K. O’Leary.

Subs: D. Moloney for Moriarty (half time), V. Cooper for Kennelly (45), J. Cahillane for Looney (60).

MOOREFIELD: T. Corely, P. O’Flynn, K. O’Neill, I. Lonergan, K. Duane, G. Naughton, J. Lonergan, R. Glavin, D. Flynn; P. Murray, R. Sweeney, M. Tracey; F. Hanniffy, J. Philips, P. Wolfe.

Subs: D. Whyte for Glavin, inj (41), P. Behan for Haniffy (45); L. O’Callaghan for J. Lonergan (54); R. Delaney for Wolfe (57).

Referee: B. Tyrell (Tipperary).