As their fourth consecutive annexing of the Bishop Moynihan Cup, their dominance of Kerry football has never been stronger — but neither has it been as pronounced as this latest victory, a ruthless 16-point execution of a team that had been posting high scores of their own in reaching yesterday’s decider.
It was five points better than their winning margin over Dingle last year. Austin Stacks were made to feel like second class citizens as the champions not only played around and above them, as had been expected, but through them too.
According to losing manager Stephen Stack, it was Dr Crokes’ newfound physicality that was the difference between the sides.
To use that fact as the sole basis for this emphatic victory would do a disservice to the skill and poise exhibited by the Killarney team. Not only was their delivery of ball into the forward line better, but their teamwork, especially around the middle, unparalleled in a compelling show of creation and industry.
But how much they will glean from it other than the sense of achievement won’t be seen for another couple of weeks at the very least. Castlehaven manager Finbarr Santry and defender Damien Cahalane were among the west Cork scouts keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.
As early as last Sunday evening, they had anticipated Dr Crokes would be their Munster quarter-final opponents, but even they would have been taken aback by just how emphatic Crokes were in their suffocation of this game.
Brian Hurley will present Crokes’ defence with a problem to solve and, like Nemo Rangers, the Kerry winners are unlikely to drop a sweeper in front of him. But when they can blaze past a genuinely good side like Stacks with relative ease, they might argue they can afford to ignore such considerations.
If Stacks had sought to gain a psychological advantage in wearing an alternative jersey, different to the one agreed with the county board, the act backfired as Crokes led from the outset, Brian Looney’s effort 16 seconds in the first of five scores inside the first seven minutes.
The best of them was a dazzling pick-up and run by man of the match Daithi Casey in the fifth minute and while Stacks fired back with points from Paul O’Donoghue and Shane Callaghan, it was just a brief respite for them.
The next five scores were all Crokes, Kieran O’Leary and Colm Cooper each contributing a brace before Chris Brady chipped in with one. Frustration grew in the Stacks’ rank with a series of late tackles, Kieran Donaghy warned by referee Seamus Mulvihill without picking up a yellow card.
His county colleague Eoin Brosnan had the better of him in a lot of exchanges. Darragh Long was sacrificed too after being beaten by his marker, John Payne, once too often.
Stacks’ corner-back Fergal McNamara ended a 12-minute scoreless spell only for his marker Cooper to find the net with the first of Crokes’ four goals.
Shane Carroll took some of the sting out of the score with two points but the difference was still a weighty seven points, augmented to eight by O’Leary just before the break to make it 1-11 to 0-6.
In front of a 7,142 crowd, the game as a contest was over by that stage but even Stacks’ most optimistic supporters were resigned to their fate when a dashing Casey run set up Brady to palm the ball to the net.
Following a similar plot to Brady’s goal, another blistering O’Leary solo was enough to create the platform for O’Leary to beat Darragh O’Brien.
Thirteen points up with 22 minutes left to play, the only thing left to do was marvel at Crokes’ superiority as Stacks almost stood back as if to sample it for themselves.
Crokes were celebrating another goal in the 46th minute when O’Leary turned provider for Casey.
It was Crokes’ third palmed goal, an indication of the inroads they made in carrying ball in the second half compared to the first, when they favoured kick-passes.
Each side picked off four points in the remaining 15 or so minutes, three Carroll frees giving Stacks’ side of the scoreboard the smallest semblance of respectability.
But nothing they assembled in consolation managed to scramble the strength of the message sent out by what is now a historic Dr Crokes team.
Scorers for Dr Crokes: C Cooper (2f), K O’Leary 1-4 each; D Casey 1-2 (0-1f), C Brady 1-1, J Buckley 0-2, B Looney, K Ward, J Doolan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Austin Stacks: S Carroll 0-5 (5f); B Shanahan 0-2; P O’Donoghue, S Callaghan, F McNamara, D Mannix, G Horan 0-1 each.
DR CROKES: D Moloney; K Ward, L Quinn, J Payne; S Myers, F Fitzgerald, E Brosnan; A O’Donovan, J Buckley; A O’Sullivan, D Casey, B Looney; K O’Leary, C Cooper, C Brady.
Subs: J Doolan for C Brady (46), M Moloney for L Quinn (50), D O’Leary for S Myers, G O’Shea for A O’Sullivan (both 51), S Doolan for J Payne (55).
AUSTIN STACKS: D O’Brien; J Dennis, F McNamara, D Bohan; R Shanahan, D McElligott, P McCarthy; K Donaghy, B Shanahan; G Horan, P O’Donoghue, M Collins; D Long, S Carroll, S Callaghan.
Subs: D Mannix for D Long (22), TJ Hogan for R Shanahan (37), C O’Connell for D McElligott (40), C Jordon for J Dennis (43), W Kirby for S Callaghan (46).
Referee: S Mulvihill (St Senans).