While the Clarinbridge intermediate team warmed up the crowd in the Etihad Stadium, Melbourne at the weekend, the club’s seniors gave the assembled in Duggan Park Ballinasloe plenty to cheer as they marched past a determined Craughwell on Saturday.
“Ah yeah it was sad to miss out on the trip to Australia, but there will be other trips again,” said Kerins.
“You don’t get too many chances to get to a county final, we were nine years waiting between the first one to the second one.
“The lads know well what they have given up but if we get a county medal it will be sweeter than any trip.”
After 24 minutes of the initially dour affair Craughwell let by a point, but the All-Ireland champions hit another 11 points by the 43rd minute to another step towards that county medal.
And it was a disciplined display from Craughwell that kept Clarinbridge quiet earlier on, with scorer-in-chief Mark Kerins handed just one scorable free in the first 30 minutes.
But all around him the team rowed in with scores of their own, with all six forwards registering points from play in the first-half, which saw Clarinbridge lead 0-9 to 0-6 at the break.
One of the leading lights for the winners was wing-forward Shane Burke. After hitting two poor wides in the first quarter, Burke recovered with a brace of wonderful points in the 24th and 28th minutes, which rebooted the Clarinbridge challenge.
And it was fitting that after a dominant second 30 minutes that it was Burke who hit their final score that saw them over the line.
But in reality, the champions should have wrapped up the victory earlier than they did as both Kerins brothers missed good goal chances – Mark after 14 minutes and Alan on 41 minutes – that would have sunk Craughwell.
However with Niall Healy involved in everything creative from Craughwell, they continued to recover from desperate positions.
Midway through the second-half three points in-a-row from Fergal Healy and Niall Healy (2) momentarily just put four points between the sides.
But a tidy point from Alan Kerins and another Mark Kerins free settled the maroon side’s nerves as they reached their sixth county senior decider against Gort.
“It is great to get back into the final after last year’s success,” reflected Mark Kerins. “It has been a long road for us but thankfully we are there again.
“They really tied us down in the first half and really outfought us when we had the breeze. But when it was in the melting pot a few lads really stood up and put in big performances.
“Gort are a fantastic team who have been coming for the last few years. I think they will be favourites but as always we will approach it one game at a time.”
Scorers for Clarinbridge: M Kerins 0-7 (5fs), S Burke 0-3, E Murphy, A Kerins, P Coen 0-2 each, S Forde, E Forde 0-1 each.
Scorers for Craughwell: N Healy 0-9 (6fs, 1 65), A Callanan 0-2, F Healy, N Callanan 0-1 each.
CLARINBRIDGE: L Donoghue; C Forde, B Burke, P Callanan; J Cannon, D Forde, M Donoghue; B Daly, E Murphy; S Forde, M Kerins, S Burke; E Forde, A Kerins, P Coen.
Subs: B Lane for Murphy (57).
CRAUGHWELL: J Ryan; S Dolan, I Daniels, G O’Halloran; M Horan, J Ryan, C Greaney; D Rooney, N Callanan; A Cullinane, N Healy, M Coughlan; A Callanan, F Healy, K Cullinanae.
Subs: K Greene for Rooney (ht).
Referee: L Fay.