Roll up, roll up for vaudeville, watch the Old Game in all its former glories. Marvel at Gooch and his box of teasing tricks, swoon every time foot-passes — gasp — are straight and true, count all those green spaces that Dr Crokes players run into. Please, show your appreciation for how they score with contemptuous ease, and from distance, with left foot and right. And both fists to boot.
Only just over 2,100 people were there to witness this footballing throwback of a Munster Club SFC final, but nonetheless a warm glow radiated around the old Blackrock bowl. Even Castlehaven, outclassed on the day, didn’t set up base camp in their own half. James McCarthy’s men came to play.
Trouble was they never saw enough of the ball to bring their audacious plan to life.
Dr Crokes chairman andco-manager Vince Casey caught a glimpse of Castlehaven’s impending pain at training on Thursday night in their Lewis Road den.
“We only had 15 minutes offootball, but the way the forwards were moving, I thought ‘these guys are ready to explode’,” he said after watching the three-in-a-row Kerry champions bag successive provincial titles with an as-they-pleased 0-19 to 0-12 victory.
Colm Cooper checked himself from describing it as champagne football, but he agreed that all the football planets aligned for them yesterday.
“It was more comfortable than we thought but we really played well in the first 20 minutes, that gave us the foundation.
“We’d be perceived to have a very strong forward line and they clicked today. The Páirc Ui Chaoimh pitch was outstanding — the best I’ve ever seen it at this time of the year — conditions were ideal so that allowed us to play with a little more style and freedom. We like to kick the ball a lot...”
Ah, kicking the football. Aninteresting concept, no? Kerry coach Eamonn Fitzmaurice is another devotee of that aged cult, but at inter-county level, such expansive ideals can make you look somewhat...naive? Perspective is important, of course. Though the champions of Kerry all but routed the champions of Cork yesterday, it is less a trend than an exceptional case. Dr Crokes are well ahead of the pack in Kerry, while Castlehaven are one of a bunch of potential county champions in Cork in any given season.
Crokes have handed the management reins from the great to the good and back again, but their upward trajectory is virtually seamless in recent seasons. Walk down to Lewis Road anySaturday morning, and watch the next generation of seniors tutored in the ways of kick, pass and move.
Next Sunday, they go for a seventh East Kerry divisional championship in a row — that must have been a scary 60 minutes yesterday for watching Rathmore coach Liam Kearns — before heading to London on December 16 for an awkward-looking All-Ireland Club quarter-final against Tir Chonaill Gaels. They’ll do sotoo without Eoin Brosnan, whoseongoing calf problem saw him limp out yesterday after 20 minutes.
However, as long as their dismantling of Castlehaven wasn’t a high water mark, bigger and more lip-licking challenges await in the new year, with a possible semi-final against the Leinster champions, Ballymun Kickhams or Portlaoise. And the other black and ambers of Crossmaglen loom in the distance.
“We haven’t got over the line in the All-Ireland series, and we have to learn from our mistakes,” said Cooper. “But I think we’ve a stronger panel this year, a couple of the lads back from England (Michael Moloney and Shane Doolan) and people are sacrificing a lot to be involved. If we can keep everyone fit and healthy...”
They settled this Munster decider fast and furiously yesterday, leading 0-11 to 0-4 after a joga bonito first period. The impressive thing is that Cooper flashed impressively into the game at times, but no more than that. John Payne was peerless in defence and Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan drove them from midfield. Castlehaven strayed beyond the bounds in frustration before midfielder Sean Dineen saw a straight red for a neck high challenge on Cooper ten minutes after the break. Game over.
As full-forward on the All-Ireland winning side of the 1991/92 campaign, Vince Casey appreciates the fluency of an attacking masterclass when he sees it.
“Our forward movement was incredible here, they brought their A game to the table. These guys want to win, the All-Ireland is the one thing that’s missing off their cv. This team is the best football team I’ve seen in the Crokes club, but beyond Munster there’s serious challenges awaiting them. Crossmaglen are an inter-county team in all but name, Brigid’s are in the same boat. And we have to face the champions of Leinster.”
New year priorities will alsoinfluence selection for the weekend’s O’Donoghue Cup final againstRathmore, where more records are on the table. Seven in-a-row. And the chance, perhaps, for Brosnan and Cooper to join the Clear Air Boys greats like Jackie Looney in winning ten East Kerry championships.
“Our priority is Sunday week in London,” insisted Casey. “If we have to rest a couple of players nextweekend, that’s a risk we are prepared to take.”
The club’s end of year celebration on December 30 should be quite an affair, with a fifth Munster title front and centre. But between now and then, the club must also deliberate on who to nominate for Kerry captaincy in 2013. Wing forward Brian Looney may not be even in the Kerry set-up next year, much less be captain, but a stellar seven-point haul yesterday proved he’s worth another audition at least.
“Brian’s been one of our bestplayers over last four or five years,” agreed Colm Cooper, “and while he’s been in and out for Kerry, with Crokes on the go for the past two years, it’s been a hindrance for him in inter-county terms.”