Crokes end Mullinalaghta dream and book All-Ireland final spot

Crokes end Mullinalaghta dream and book All-Ireland final spot
Daithi Casey of Dr Crokes in possession. Pictures. INPHO/ Ryan Byrne

Dr Crokes 0-18 - 2-7 Mullinalaghta

Dr Crokes have brought the Mullinalaghta fairytale to a definitive end in Thurles on Saturday afternoon and, in the process, secured a heavyweight All-Ireland senior club football final date with Galway of Corofin on St Patricks' Day.

The two finalists for 2019 have claimed the last two titles between them, Crokes bringing the garlands home to Kerry in 2017 – having already seen Corofin off in the semi-final – while the Galway side are the reigning champions.

The Munster side played most of this one with just 14 men but they never looked seriously threatened by a half-parish Longford side which had shocked the country before Christmas by seeing off Dublin's Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster decider.

Crokes dominated huge tracts of the opening half, picking off four unanswered points in the first quarter and five on the spin in the second, as the Longford side struggled to come to grips with their fluid attacking play.

Tony Brosnan was a particular thorn in the latter's side, his accuracy from shots on target and link play with the likes of Kieran O'Leary making for a long and difficult shift for the opposition full-back line.

But Mullinalaghta proved to be stubborn opponents and goals from Gary Rogers and Jayson Matthews after seven and 20 minutes kept them within arm's length of the favourites who also lost midfielder Johnny Buckley to a straight red card after 21 minutes.

Rogers' three-pointer came from the penalty spot after Brian Looney had been deemed guilty of hampering Donal McElligott. It looked harsh then and in the replays but the resultant kick was struck low and with conviction to the corner.

The second green flag was raised on the back of a stroke of luck with Rian Brady's wayward shot at the posts collected on the end line by James McGvney whose saved shot was rebounded to the net by the fist of the onrushing Matthews.

Buckley's dismissal followed from the kick-out and, though missed by most present and the TV cameras, his misdemeanour occurred within the eye line of referee Sean Hurson who decided it was worthy of the ultimate sanction.

It didn't do anything to alter the mood music.

Crokes continued to decide the tunes and claimed six of the next eight points before the interval to leave them with a 0-11 to 2-3 lead. If it looked ominous for Mullinalaghta at that point then it looked over within ten minutes of the restart.

Crokes simply did as they pleased in the third quarter, playing with patience one minute and pace the next. Another five straight points pulled them seven clear before the Leinster side found their feet again and responded with a trio of their own.

The deficit could have been cut even further.

Dr Crokes' Shane Muphy celebrates winning a free
Dr Crokes' Shane Muphy celebrates winning a free

Matthews had a penalty appeal turned down after contesting a long ball in with corner-back John Payne and Aidan McElligott saw a fisted effort from another lofted ball batted away by Crokes goalkeeper Shane Murphy.

Crokes should have punished them with a goal of their own soon after but centre-back Gavin White fired a shot off the legs of Rogers at the far end to keep four-point gap the same and the pot stirred for a while longer.

Not that it mattered. The last laps were leisurely.

The final will be anything but.

Scorers for Dr Crokes: T Brosnan (0-6, 2 frees); K O'Leary (0-4); D Shaw (0-3); D Casey (0-2, 1 free); M Burns, G O'Shea and B Looney (all 0-1).

Scorers for Mullinalaghta: D McGivney (0-5, 4 frees); G Rogers (1-0 penalty); J Matthews (1-0); D McElligott and B Fox (both 0-1).

Dr Crokes: S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O'Leary, G White, S Doolan; J Buckley, D Casey; M Burns, G O'Shea, B Looney; D Shaw, K O'Leary, T Brosnan. Subs: M Potts for Doolan (35); A O'Sullivan for D O'Leary (50); C Cooper for O'Shea (51); E Brosnan for Burns and J Kiely for T Brosnan (both 58).

Mullinalaghta: P Rogers; S Cadam, P Fox, C Brady; F Mulligan, S Mulligan, D McElligott; D McGivney, J Keegan; G Rogers, J McGivney, B Fox; J Matthews, R Brady, A McElligott. Subs: M Cunningham for F Mulligan (27); C McElligott for Fox (58).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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