Have Crokes found a mini Cooper?

ROUTINE business for Dr Crokes in their opening provincial foray yesterday.

The Kerry champions swept aside Limerick outfit Monaleen with consummate ease in a lopsided Munster Club SFC quarter-final tie and in the process illustrated how intent they are on prolonging their season.

Dr Crokes form has not deserted them since their county final victory over Austin Stacks and their performance graph continued to travel on an upward curve at their club grounds on Lewis Road. Their greatest cause for concern arose in the 8th minute when former Dr Crokes man Mike Crowley returned to haunt them by fisting a long punt from centre-back Barry Fitzpatrick to the net. Yet within two minutes Dr Crokes had wiped out that advantage to draw level and by the interval they were in cruise control as they lead by nine points.

It was a bleak afternoon for Monaleen. The Limerick club received a thumping from Nemo Rangers when they journeyed to Fitzgerald Stadium for the 2002 provincial decider and the Kerry town proved yesterday to be the graveyard for their ambitions once more. They generated plenty optimism with a purposeful opening to the game as half-backs Eoin Keating and Fitzpatrick established a platform for dominance. But those positive vibes soon evaporated as Dr Crokes settled to the rhythm of the game and their twin full-forward line, Colm Cooper and Daithí Casey, caused untold damage for Monaleen.

By the final whistle Cooper and Casey had divvied up 2-10 with Monaleen powerless to stifle their influences. Cooper’s offensive capabilities are pretty well recognised at this stage but it was the emerging talent of Casey who caught the eye. He swung over some sublime points in the opening-half, the highlight in the 21st minute when he fetched a perceptive pass by Johnny Buckley on the left wing, swivelled and lofted over a beautiful score. Dr Crokes manager Harry O’Neill admitted afterwards that Casey’s development has improved the team’s attacking options.

“If you are a one-trick pony, any opposition can mark one fella and take him out. Daithí is a great target man to hit the ball into. It took Daithí a couple of games to get into the role as he played most of his football as a young fella out around midfield, but he is relishing it now.”

Monaleen did not aid their cause in the first-half by attempting to work the ball out of defence with sequences of short passes and Cooper was on hand to punish the Limerick team with a pair of opening half goals. The first in the 16th minute was borne from brilliant invention as Cooper tapped a quick close-range free to Brian Looney, collected the return and slotted to the net. A minute before the interval, Cooper was on hand to kill off the match when he bundled the ball home after Colin Brady’s initial shot was blocked.

The second-half was a funereal affair, Crokes’ supremacy having drained the life out of the contest. Their rearguard were in exceptional form as Michael Moloney, David O’Leary and Luke Quinn fronted a resolute unit. Limiting Monaleen to a total of 1-3 was a testament to the Dr Crokes defensive performance.

Around the middle third the input of Johnny Buckley and Eoin Brosnan ensured that Ambrose O’Donovan’s absence did not hamper Dr Crokes aspirations. The rate of scores did slow down in the Dr Crokes attack with Monaleen defenders Peter King and Fitzpatrick impressing, yet the Limerick club never looked like bridging the gap. The odds are now shortening on an appetising Munster final of Dr Crokes and Nemo Rangers, but O’Neill is wary of the semi-final trip to face Aherlow.

“One of the things that I said to our lads was that it was Drom-Broadford in 2008 and Kilmurry-Ibrickane last year so if we think we’ll have a handy tie, we’ll get turned over. You have to give respect to every team that you play against and that’s what we’ll do the next day.”

Scorers for Dr Crokes: C Cooper 2-5 (four frees); D Casey 0-5 (two frees); E Brosnan 0-2; B Looney 0-1.

Monaleen: M Crowley 1-1; M Gavin (one free), C Joyce-Power 0-1 each.

DR CROKES: K Cremin; D O’Leary, M Moloney, J Payne; S Doolan, L Quinn, S Myers; B McMahon, J Buckley; A Kenneally, E Brosnan, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, C Brady.

Subs: N O’Connell for Looney (55), S O’Neill for Brady (55), J Jones for McMahon (57), K McMahon for O’Leary (60).

MONALEEN: D O’Sullivan; D Bourke, P King, F Nash; E Keating, B Fitzpatrick, P Quinn; B Geary, P Kinnerk; L Kavanagh, P Russell, C Joyce-Power; M Crowley, J O’Brien, M Gavin.

Subs: JP Stokes for Kinnerk (46), F Melody for Quinn (52), S Leonard for Joyce-Power (58), C Hickey for Gavin (58).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

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