Harry O’Neill: Balance key to Dr Crokes success

The game may have been long over by the time it arrived, but the sight of Dr Crokes’ subs teaming up for their final score of the game gave plenty for those on the sideline to smile about — not that a fifth county title wasn’t enough to send them home beaming.

All-Ireland minor medallist Jordan Kiely played a one-two with Mike Milner to kick the final score of a half that began with his 2014 minor teammate Micheál Burns kicking their opener with his first touch.

It may have seemed like an age without silverware — since they completed a four-in-a-row of Kerry titles in 2013 — but the age profile of the group is looking healthy as ever, according to selector Harry O’Neill.

“You’ve got a bunch there that are very, very committed. Eoin (Brosnan) is 36, ‘Gooch’ (Cooper) and Ambrose (O’Donovan) are 33 and then you’re going down the line from 30 down. That’s not a bad age group to have, from 30 down to 19 with Gavin White.

“That’s a nice little blend that we have and we’ve the younger guys on the bench to throw in there as well.

“The big test for us is to try to get the balance right with these guys. Micheál Burns came on in the semi-final and put up his hand big time with an outstanding performance. The same when he came in again today.

“It’s an embarrassment to have riches like that on the sideline: Jordan Kiely, Tony Brosnan, Luke Quinn… We’ve loads of guys sitting on the bench, and I could name more.

“The guys on the pitch have to do the job and it’s very much up to us on the sideline to manage and make sure we use these resources properly.”

But for all the riches on the bench, this was a game carried in the main by the stalwarts of county finals past. 2012 man-of-the-match Brian Looney kicked four points in the second-half while 2010 man-of-the-match Colm Cooper won his second personal award and, alongside Eoin Brosnan, his sixth county medal.

“I turned to Pat O’Shea at one stage of the second-half and said, ‘The more we can get Colm Cooper on the ball, we’ll control it and we’ll win this game,’” said O’Neill.

“Colm was just awesome there. They talk about his pace being gone but he went down the wing there for one of the points he got and it was just phenomenal. He just took the game by the scruff of the neck in the last 20 minutes and showed what a player he is.

“Eoin has had a fantastic year for us too. He was probably player of the year again last year for us. I hope he keeps playing on for us forevermore. The young fellows learn from the likes of Eoin Brosnan, which is fantastic.”

Crokes’ game plan was very much tailored with Kenmare District’s strengths in mind. Brosnan picked up Adrian Spillane (lining out despite a hamstring niggle), Fionn Fitzgerald stuck tight to Stephen O’Brien and O’Neill feels their match-ups worked to a tee.

“We knew what was coming from Kenmare. The way we’ve set out most of our games this year is we look at the opposition and try to set out our team as best we can to do the job against them. I think our match-ups worked today.

“The lads are an experienced bunch. They’ve been down for the last couple of years so it was nice for them to pick it up — they really wanted to win it. The match-ups were right, the players did their job and thankfully it came out the right side.”

The one time Kenmare truly looked able to rattle Crokes, after Teddy Doyle’s fine goal cut the deficit to four, Crokes hit back with five points without reply — three from Looney and the final pair from Cooper.

“I love that reply to a goal because it means that you’re taking control of the game. Once we did that, I was really happy,” said O’Neill.

As for the Clare champions next day out, past experience has left Crokes well aware of the trouble they can cause.

“Our focus is going to turn to Listry next weekend in the East Kerry Championship and after that we’ll move on to playing Munster.

“We’ll probably have a look at the Clare county final next weekend, see who we’re up going to be up against and see where we’ll go.

“We’ve got really tough battles from all of these teams down through the years and we know we’re going to get a tough one. Cratloe have nearly beaten us. Kilmurry Ibrickane have nearly beaten us. So it’s going to be the same again when we meet them.”

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