It’s the best of times as Crokes warm up for Nemo test

Whoever penned the Crokes notes for the match programme had it spot on. These are, indeed, the “best days in the history of our club”.

UP IN THE AIR: Dr Crokes' Gavin O'Shea and Kilmurry-Ibrickane's Keelan Sexton contest a high ball. Picture: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

DR CROKES (KERRY) ... 2-19

KILMURRY-IBRICKANE (CLARE) ....................... 0-10

Yesterday’s comprehensive dismissal of Kilmurry-Ibrickane was the club’s 17th straight championship win and their 14th consecutive victory in Munster. Their average winning margin in 2017, prior to the visit of the West Clare outfit, was 10 points. Here, they finished 15 clear.

In two weeks’ time, they’ll square off against the most decorated football club in Munster. Mind you, Nemo Rangers haven’t won a provincial title since 2010. Crokes have won four since then. They are the standard bearers at present and have been for quite a few years now.

When Gavin O’Shea collected a ’45 and split the posts in first-half stoppages, it meant all six starting Crokes forwards had found the target from play. Johnny Buckley, enjoying an inspired afternoon in the middle of the park, had started the move which ended with him landing the opening goal of the contest 14 minutes in. Throw in the pair of white flags raised by defenders David O’Leary and Gavin White and the number of first-half contributors on the Crokes scoresheet stood at nine.

By half-time, it was game over. The hosts led 1-11 to 0-4, having limited their opponents to a solitary point between the 6th and 34th minutes.

But, as per usual, the Crokes management found faults, picked holes. They always do. They were more obvious on this occasion, mind, what with Kieran O’Leary, twice, Brian Looney, and Gavin White failing to find the net when put inside the opposition cover during the opening period. Each of their five first-half wides fell into the ‘scoreable’ category.

“After eight or ten minutes, we could have had another 2-3 on the board, which was disappointing at that stage of the game,” said Crokes selector Harry O’Neill.

“We haven’t been that happy with some of our performances prior to this and we wanted to be more clinical, but we weren’t in the first-half.”

The constant flow of scoring chances stemmed from their total dominance at midfield where Ambrose O’Donovan and, in particular, Johnny Buckley were pulling down almost every one of Ian McInerney’s restarts. O’Donovan was black-carded at the end of the first quarter and was followed to the sideline by goalkeeper Shane Murphy after he shipped a heavy tackle from Keelan Sexton.

In came Tony Brosnan and Johnny O’Leary and on continued Crokes.

Three Colm Cooper frees cancelled out early second-half scores from Mark McCarthy (0-2) and Keelan Sexton (’45) at the other end. Michael Moloney and Fionn Fitzgerald threw themselves in front of successive shots to prevent a Kilmurry-Ibrickane goal thereafter. The Clare champions could find no way through and had only one player, McCarthy, who managed more than a solitary score from open play.

The ever-widening gap was 13 (2-15 to 0-8) when Kieran O’Leary pounced on a mistake from McInerney to poke home their second goal on 45 minutes — the Kilmurry Ibrickane keeper failed to deal with a long ball in from Buckley. That said, he did redeem himself when tipping a Micheál Burns rasper onto the crossbar.

The lively Gavin O’Shea and top-scorer Cooper swelled their personal tallies to complete the rout.

“Today, I thought we were very slick, more so than we were against Clonmel Commercials,” continued O’Neill. “That’s what you are looking for, to improve in every game.”

Is the volume of games their sole concern at the moment — they played East Kerry championship last weekend and will do so again next weekend? Time off is rare.

“You get worried because you had [a large number of games] last year and we have it again this year. There was little break in between. At the same time, if you are playing matches in October and November, you are in a very happy place.”

Kilmurry-Ibrickane manager Aidan Moloney believes Crokes have moved up a gear since their Munster quarter-final meeting 12 months ago. Where there wasn’t much between these sides in 2011 and ’12, a sizeable gulf in class now exists.

“They have some super athletes that we couldn’t cope with, especially in the first-half. Midfield caused us huge problems and their half-back line just ran at us constantly. Our backs tried hard but there was wave after wave coming at them. We were trying a bit of damage limitation basically, even after 15 minutes. They are going to take a lot of stopping.”

Returning to the Crokes message in the programme, the opening paragraph drew reference to Charles Dickens’ famous line; it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Where the Lewis Road club is concerned, it is very much a case of the former.

These are the best of times, indeed.

Scorers for Dr Crokes:

C Cooper (0-9, 6 frees); K O’Leary (1-1); J Buckley (1-0); M Burns, G O’Shea (0-2 each); D O’Leary, G White, B Looney, D Casey, T Brosnan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kilmurry Ibrickane:

M McCarthy (0-4); K Sexton (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 ’45); I McInerney (0-1 free), M McMahon, N Hickey, D Coughlan (0-1 each).

DR CROKES:

S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, G White; L Quinn, F Fitzgerald, D O’Leary; J Buckley, A O’Donovan; M Burns, G O’Shea, B Looney; K O’Leary, D Casey, C Cooper.

Subs:

T Brosnan for O’Donovan (18 mins, bc); J O’Leary for Murphy (27, inj); S Doolan for Looney (46); P Clarke for K O’Leary (50); J Lyne for Quinn (52); E Brosnan for Cooper (55).

KILMURRY-IBRICKANE:

I McInerney; D Hickey, E Talty, M Killeen; S Hickey, M McMahon, M Hogan; K King, N Hickey; D Coughlan, M O’Dwyer, S Moloney; E Coughlan, M McCarthy, K Sexton.

Subs:

N Downes for M O’Dwyer (HT); P O’Dwyer for Coughlan (46 mins); T Lernihan for Hogan (50); E Bracken for Moloney (52); D Callinan for Talty (27); Darren Sexton for King (57).

Referee:

S Lonergan (Tipperary).


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