Dr Crokes show their guile

Dr Crokes (Kerry) 1-14 Clonmel Commercials (Tipperary) 0-06
It was a long journey for Clonmel Commercials to Killarney yesterday for this Munster Club SFC semi-final against Kerry champions Dr Crokes, at Crokes’ own fabulous facility across the road from Fitzgerald Stadium, an arduous journey to play a game of football in almost the worst conditions imaginable.

Players had to endure driving rain on a pitch which, perfectly prepared as it had been, was becoming more waterlogged by the minute.

At first glance, and taking the final scoreline especially, it also looks like it was a fruitless journey — it was not. This was a young Commercials team up against a seasoned side who were playing on their home patch. To even have a chance of winning, Clonmel needed all their best players on the pitch and all playing well. In the event, and already denied the services of county final goal-scoring hero Colman Kennedy (tied to a Cork City soccer team with whom he’s on scholarship) and the suspended Niall Kelly, before a ball was kicked in anger yesterday they were hit by three late defections.

Giant midfielder Eamon Hanrahan, centre-forward Fergal O’Callaghan and full-forward Michael Quinlivan, three pivotal players, were all ruled out through injury, replaced by three youngsters.

In such circumstances, and up against a Dr Crokes team on their third Munster campaign in a row, powered by the likes of Eoin Brosnan, Johnny Buckley, team captain Kieran O’Leary and the incomparable Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper, what chance Commercials? They could have rolled over and died, of course — not their way, said manager Philly Ryan.

“Fate wasn’t kind to us this week but look, we have a big panel, we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Obviously they were big losses, when you come to Kerry to play a Kerry team and you’re from Tipperary, you need everything going right for you. Losing the lads during the week was a bit of a blow but we got on with it.”

Full credit to them for even coming within hailing distance of Crokes, as they were with only 13 minutes to go when the score stood at 0-12 to 0-6.

However, a Crokes super-goal in the 52nd minute took the game completely beyond Commercials’ reach. The dismissal of their target man Ian Barnes two minutes later for the one sour note in the game didn’t help, but overall this was a very worthwhile exercise for the Tipperary champions.

Backed by the wind and rain, the home team quickly took control and with Cooper firing over five points from frees (3) and play (2), centre-forward Chris Brady coming in with a brace, midfielders Daithi Casey and the powerful Johnny Buckley with one each, they led by eight at the break, 0-10 to 0-2.

Commercials weren’t for quitting, however, and three points in a row in the third quarter, from Barnes and the flying pair Richie Carroll and sub Alan Lonergan, had them within six as the game entered the final phase. It could have been even closer had Carroll opted for a goal rather than a point with his 36th-minute shot.

While the locals in the sizeable ! crowd weren’t worried about the final result, they were indeed impressed by the play of the visitors, of Seamus Kennedy, Aldo Matassa and the flying Jason Lonergan particularly.

The goal is worth singling out for description, a superb team effort. It started with team captain Kieran O’Leary in the right corner, then went at pace through several pairs of hands — Jamie Doolan to Brian Looney to Johnny Buckley — before ending up in the powerful paws of the in-rushing Eoin Brosnan. Eoin’s piledriver finish gave Evan Comerford no chance in the Commercials goal — sheer brilliance, especially in the conditions.

Next up now for Dr Crokes is a tilt with Cork champions Castlehaven in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday week, a game to which joint manager Vinnie Casey is already looking forward with relish.

“Castlehaven will be tough opponents and we will have to step up; I’m confident we have the players to do it. They know that they are just 60 minutes away from a Munster title so that will be our job over the next couple of weeks, getting them prepared for that.

“Castlehaven will bring a huge ferocity and hunger, they will tackle hard and they’ll be up for it but I am hoping that our guys will as well. It won’t be hard to motivate them for a Munster final, especially against Cork opponents.”

Scorers for Dr Crokes: C Cooper 0-8 (6f); C Brady 0-3 (1f); E Brosnan 1-0; L Quinn, D Casey, J Buckley, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clonmel Commercials: I Barnes 0-2; J Harney, R Carroll, S Kennedy, A Lonergan, 0-1 each.

DR CROKES: D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; L Quinn, E Brosnan, S Myers; D Casey, J Buckley; K O’Leary (c), C Brady, B Looney; G O’Shea, C Cooper, J Doolan.

CLONMEL COMMERCIALS: E Comerford; F Condon (c), D Lynch, D Madigan; K Harney, S Kennedy, S Taylor; A Matassa, I Fahy; L Moore, J Lonergan, R Carroll; I Barnes, J Peters, J Harney.

Referee: M Collins (Cork).

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