The writing looked on the wall for Legion as early as the ninth minute when man-of-the-match Jamie Doolan crashed home a fabulous goal to leave Dr Crokes five points (1-3 to 0-1) in front.
That score epitomised everything glorious about the Dr Crokes’ display and especially that of a full-forward line that led Legion’s defence a merry dance for 60 minutes. Doolan hit 1-4, Kieran O’Leary chipped in with 1-5, while the mercurial Colm Cooper, selected at number 14 but fulfilling a wide-ranging conductor’s role, contributed five points.
A watertight defence superbly marshalled by Kerry captain Eoin Brosnan, allied with dominant midfield performances from Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan, meant that Legion, made very little attacking headway.
A glance at Legion’s scorers proves this point — two of their seven scores came by way of defenders Derek Pyne and Jonathan Lyne, while midfielder Billy Maguire kicked another. Up front, James O’Donoghue converted two frees leaving corner forward David O’Sullivan (0-2) as the sole Legion forward to score from play.
In this kind of irresistible form, the likelihood of any championship aspirant stopping Dr Crokes in their quest for an historic fourth title on the trot seems very remote.
Legion made a good start and edged ahead in the first minute through a James O’Donoghue free. The next eight minutes however were all Crokes. A Colm Cooper free levelled matters; Kieran O’Leary edged Dr Crokes in front a matter of seconds later, before Jamie Doolan’s superb sixth-minute goal rocked Legion back on their heels.
Dr Crokes’ next score exemplified the class and application of the eventual winners. Colm Cooper started a move in his own half-back line, winning possession before transferring to Eoin Brosnan who lashed a laser-like pass to Kieran O’Leary in the right corner-forward position. O’Leary looked up and picked out the onrushing Cooper for an outstanding point. Two further scores from Ambrose O’Donovan and Cooper left Dr Crokes eight points ahead — 1-6 to 0-1 — with 15 minutes elapsed. A Jonathan Lyne point proved but a momentary reprieve for Legion, as Kieran O’Leary, Cooper and Doolan scores reinforced Crokes’ dominant position.
Legion spirits were lifted slightly as half-time loomed by virtue of points from James O’Donoghue and David O’Sullivan, but the arrears looked insurmountable as Dr Crokes led 1-9 to 0-4 at the break.
The procession towards Legion’s goal continued unabated from the second half throw-in. Doolan (2), Alan O’Sullivan and Shane Myers extended Dr Crokes’ lead before Billy Maguire (Legion) kicked a fine long-range point and Derek Pyne ventured up from defence to score another. Kieran O’Leary (2), Cooper, and Alan O’Sullivan extended Crokes’ lead to 1-18 to 0-6 before O’Leary embellished a fine performance with a goal created by Daithi Casey and Keith O’Leary. David O’Leary had the final say for Legion who now find themselves preparing for next weekend’s losers round.
DR CROKES: D Moloney; J Payne, S Doolan, K Ward; S Myers (0-1), E Brosnan, F Fitzgerald; A O’Donovan (0-1), J Buckley; A O’Sullivan (0-2), D Casey, B Looney; Kieran O’Leary (1-5), C Cooper (0-5, 0-2 frees), J Doolan (1-4).
Subs: D O’Leary for S Myers (38), S O’Neill for J Doolan (54), Keith O’Leary for B Looney (55), J Lyne for J Payne (58).
LEGION: B Kelly; D Pyne (0-1), G McCarthy, P O’Connor; S McCarthy, D Sheehan, J Lyne (0-1); P Lucey, B Maguire (0-1); K Breen, J O’Donoghue (0-2 frees), M O’Sullivan; D O’Sullivan (0-2), T Moriarty, C Keane.
Subs: C Sheehan for G McCarthy (17), K Slattery for B Maguire (42), K Treacy for K Breen (42), D Gleeson for T Moriarty (52).
Referee: D Sayers (Austin Stacks).