Crokes do the business in opening half

Kilmacud Crokes 0-11 Ballyboden St. Enda's 2-2

You wouldn't have fancied their chances before the game had you been told they would only manage two points in the entire second half. That they did says everything about the limited, if game, challenge presented to them by 'Boden, as much as their own exertions in defence.

Playing with the wind at their backs, Crokes knew they needed to return to the changing rooms at the break with some daylight between them and 'Boden on the scoreboard. What they managed was a five-point buffer, which was down largely to a concerted effort to press 'Boden as far up the pitch as was humanly possible.

Beyond that, it was a handful of impressive individual displays that gave them the upper hand. Johnny Magee lorded it in midfield, Conor Murphy pulled the strings going forward with his free, roving role while Fermanagh player Liam McBarron's influence mushroomed more as the half wore on.

Chief tormenter however was Liam Og Ó hEineachain. Lining out at centre back opposite Kevin Moran's nephew Rory Hussey, the 22-year-old student found the time to roam upfield and kick three superb points, while keeping Hussey in his pocket.

With that kind of foundation, Crokes methodically kept the scoreboard ticking over, but they hit a serious glitch after only 11 minutes when Conal Keaney rocked them with an impressive and unexpected goal.

Completely under the cosh for the opening 10 minutes, 'Boden launched a rapier thrust through the heart of the Kilmacud defence. Declan O'Mahony swept a swift long ball over the top for Andrew Kerin to chase on to before the ball was transferred to the onrushing Keaney who finished low past Dan Nelligan and into the net.

Crokes hardly blinked however and could have been even further ahead going into the second half against a team that could muster only two scores in that first half - Andrew Kerin tacking a point on to Keaney's goal after 24 minutes. With Crokes' cushion at the break the onus was on 'Boden to show their hand playing with the wind on the restart.

What that amounted to basically was lumping ball after ball into Conal Keaney, who seemed to be the sole outlet for the underdogs up front. At the far end, Crokes had been dealt a blow in first half injury time when McBarron had to be chaired off and his remaining colleagues seemed to lose focus after the break, shooting a succession of wides that might have sealed the result long before the end.

They could have been left ruing that profligacy. Although 'Boden were struggling to make headway up front, a window did open after 53 minutes when Stephen Hiney found himself staring into the whites of goalkeeper Dan Nelligan's eyes before being upended by a desperate challenge from Johnny Magee.

Predictably, it was Keaney who stepped up to sweep a confident penalty under Nelligan's right arm and, even though that was only 'Boden's third score, they suddenly found themselves a mere two points adrift.

With seven minutes to go, the chance was there to make Crokes pay for their failure to wrap up the game, but 'Boden's follow-up to their second goal was tame stuff. The only other score came from Kilmacud's O'Keeffe who notched up the first and only score from a free deep into injury time.

For Crokes, the win marks their first Dublin title in six years and puts to bed the pain of last year's heavy defeat to St Brigid's at the same stage. "We worked hard as a team today and after this we feel like we've made amends for that game against St Brigid's," said Johnny Magee.

Manager Mick Dillonwas delighted: "It means we've won four of seven finals rather than three of seven since the early 90s. It means that, in the last 10 to 12 years, we've been the top team in Dublin and we had to beat Ballyboden and Na Fianna to do it, so we've done it the hard way."

Leinster, for which Crokes are firm favourites, beckons for which a far more complete display will be required if this team is to have any chance of emulating the All-Ireland winning side of 1994.

Scorers: Kilmacud Crokes: L Og Ó hEineachain 0-3, J Magee, M O'Keeffe and L McBarron 0-2 each, R Cosgrove and D Kelleher 0-1 each. Ballyboden St Endas: C Keaney 2-1 (1-0 penalty), A Kerin 0-1.

BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S: S Manley; A Gardiner, D Kiernan, M O'Sullivan; E McNulty, G O'Reilly, C Dolan; D O'Mahony, I Clarke; K Naughton, S Hiney, R Hussey; C Doyle, C Keaney (2-1, 1 penalty), A Kerin (0-1). Subs: C Smyth for Clarke 36, N Clarke for Dolan 38, B O'Regan for Doyle 47, A Brennan for Hiney 58.

KILMACUD CROKES: D Nelligan; N McGrath, C Kelleher, C Flanagan; P Griffin, L Og Ó hEineachain, B McGrath; J Magee, D Magee; C Murphy, L McBarron, M Vaughan; M Daveron, R Cosgrove, D Kelleher. SUBS: M O'Keeffe for McBarron 30, F Armstrong for Kelleher 54.

REFEREE: S Farrell (Donabate).

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