Already crippled by injuries to key players, the south Dublin club suffered the additional loss of defender Adrian Morrissey to a controversial suspension last week and yet a fifth provincial title now lies just 60 minutes away.
Morrissey received a month’s ban for what most observers agree was a controversial red card during a league game against Erin’s Own recently and will, as things stand, miss the upcoming Leinster decider against Rhode of Offaly.
Crokes could have pouted but decided instead to channel their sense of grievance into their campaign in the hope that Morrissey can look forward to another All-Ireland assault come January when he will be available for selection again.
“There certainly is a sense of injustice and fury in our dressing room over the treatment of Adrian Morrissey who was sent off in a game where he shouldn’t have even been spoken to,” said Crokes manager Paddy Carr.
“That certainly was a serious motivating factor for our players out there today. We are very upset about it.”
Standing between the Dublin champions and an All-Ireland semi-final are the Offaly representatives, the side they overcame in the Leinster showpiece in 2008 on the way to winning the club’s second national title.
As Carr pointed out, it is a game that has all the makings of a classic but it will do well to better the entertainment quota that was on offer in Donnycarney yesterday.
Westmeath have never provided a Leinster club champion but Garrycastle have come closer than most, defeating Ballyboden St Enda’s last season before losing to Portlaoise in a decider where they failed to produce their best.
They left harbouring no such regrets this time.
Anthony Cunningham’s lads started slowly but soon began to break even against a Crokes side that was without the likes of long-term absentees Paul Griffin and Mark Davoren as well as Dublin forward Niall Corkery.
A more recent casualty, Corkery’s knee problem is likely to cost him his participation the next day although Carr is confident of having county colleague Rory O’Carroll, who returned from France to feature as a sub here, available.
Garrycastle were also short of a full deck with captain Doran Harte sitting it out with a shoulder injury but they were fortunate that Seanie O’Donoghue was passed fit for duty.
A midfielder by trade, the veteran was sublime at centre-back in the first-half before migrating towards more familiar territory after the break in an attempt to stymie the Dublin side’s dominance of that sector.
O’Donoghue’s efforts were lent added value by full-back John Gaffey who enjoyed a terrific tussle with Longford’s Brian Kavanagh while corner-back Mark McCallion shadowed a less than fully fit Mark Vaughan.
Curbing that triumvirate’s striking power for long spells was always going to give the underdogs a shot and they had a 0-7 to 0-5 interval lead thanks also to the efforts at the other end of Dessie Dolan, Rory McGowan and Paul Dillon.
The tide turned for Crokes after the interval.
Three points in as many minutes allowed them wrestle the lead back on the restart and they didn’t relinquish it again thanks mainly to their largely uninterrupted supply of possession and Kavanagh’s ability to fashion scores from mere inches of space.It was clinical stuff from a team that knows how to win.
Scorers for Kilmacud: B Kavanagh 0-6 (0-2 frees); D Kelleher 0-2; K Nolan, M Vaughan, L Og O’hEineachain, C Dias, B O’Rorke 0-1f.
Scorers for Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-4 (2 frees); P Dillon 0-3 (2 frees); R McGowan 0-2; P Mulvihill 0-1.
KILMACUD: D Nestor; K Nolan, Ross O’Carroll, C Lamb; C O’Sullivan, B McGrath, R Ryan; C Dyas, P Duggan; L Óg O Heineachain, D Kellegher, P Burke; B O’Rorke, B Kavanagh, M Vaughan.
Subs: Rory O’Carroll for Ryan 45, M Coughlan for O’Rorke 48, R Cosgrove for Burke 56.
GARRYCASTLE: C Mullin; M McCallion, J Gaffey, A Fox; J Dolan, S O’Donoghue, K Henson; D O’Shaughnessy, A Brown; J McAteer, D Dolan, R McGowan; S Mulvihill, P Dillon, P Mulvihill.
Subs: E Mulvihill for McAteer (39), P Rattigan for Fox (48), G Dolan for McGowan (54), J Duignan for S Mulvihill (58), A Daly for Brown (58).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).