Crossmaglen may not have been as profligate as Anglo Irish Bank or Bear Stearns, but they were punished for kicking away enough chances to win two games, Kilmacud Crokes edging them out 1-9 to 0-7 in the All-Ireland club decider.
No such parsimony in the hurling decider, an old-fashioned blow-out with Portumna crushing De La Salle 2-24 to 1-8: a Celtic tiger scoreline if ever you saw one.
The 32,952 spectators saw Mark Vaughan of Kilmacud Crokes get to grips with the difficult, swirling wind early on but the critical first-half score came when Mark Davoren timed his run behind the Cross defence to perfection on 10 minutes, finishing calmly past keeper Paul Hearty to send Crokes into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead.
Driven on by Darren Magee and Liam Óg Ó hEineacháin, the Dublin side looked more like the club with four All-Ireland titles in a decade than their opponents, moving fluently from defence to attack and offering the man in possession an outlet every time.
Cross were rattled. They hit poor wides – Michael McEntee struck three before half-time — conceded silly frees and at times in possession they looked almost impatient.
Even Oisín McConville – the old dog’s old dog, if you like – missed a couple of chances, while Crokes’ free-running superiority was encapsulated near the end of the first half when Davoren picked Francie Bellew’s pocket on the 14-metre line.
At half-time it was a one-goal game, but that one goal looked enough. In fact, Davoren almost doubled the lead with another well-timed run and shot, but he was denied by what looked like an illegal foot-block from Bellew.
Cross came knocking but Crokes stayed calm at the back and never looked like conceding a goal. At the final whistle they were five up.
Captain Darren Magee explained afterwards: “We’ve been written off all year, nobody’s given us credit for what we’ve achieved, but we knew if we went at Crossmaglen we could take them. St Vincent’s probably showed how to do that last year, they showed the way — that if you ran at them they could be exposed, and that’s what we did, particularly in the first ten, 15 minutes.”
True enough, and Davoren’s goal – the difference between the sides – proved it, as McConville admitted.
“The goal had a big bearing at that time,” he said. “That’s something we haven’t really done all year; to give a goal away was something major for us in the first half and it probably was our downfall in the end.
“In saying that, though, bad and all as we played, we still had a few chances at the end of the first half and we could have come through.”
In the hurling decider De La Salle tried to be proactive. They started Kevin Moran on Joe Canning and worked Brian Phelan loose in midfield. However, further upfield they tried a two-man full-forward line, which released Ollie Canning to hoover up loose ball.
That meant a plentiful supply to the Portumna forwards, and southeastern fears about Joe Canning were well founded. The full-forward angled over a sideline from halfway at the end of the first quarter and was his calm, accurate self on free-taking duty.
At the end of the first quarter, he intervened decisively, flipping an over-the-shoulder handpass to Damien Hayes for Portumna’s first goal. When Hayes goaled again two minutes before the break it helped Portumna to a 2-11 to 0-3 interval lead, and De La Salle required snookers.
Waterford supporters had hoped to avoid a repeat of the All-Ireland final massacre, but the second half was just as uncomfortable to watch.
De La Salle overcame a scoreless first half to catch Adare on the line in the Munster final, but Portumna are a different beast and kept the Waterford side suffering to the end.
Portumna boss Johnny Kelly said afterwards: “We are a very confident bunch of lads here which is unusual, because Galway have not won a lot of All-Irelands. We have an aspect to us… not arrogance, but an understanding of what it takes to win.”
Not a Patrick’s Day to be remembered, maybe – the 125th anniversary pageant between the matches figured a larger-than-life washing machine and cement mixer, for instance – but that won’t worry Crokes and Portumna.
If you doubt that, Jonny Magee summed up what winning the club All-Ireland meant with one word: everything. That was Crokes yesterday. Economical to the very end.