And adding to the agony was the fact that crosstown rivals, Killarney Legion, were the side inflicting the final fatal blow to their 2014 championship ambitions.
While Crokes had stuttered in suffering a loss to Rathmore in the first round before overcoming Kenmare District, very few were willing to predict a Legion victory.
Legion manager Peter Keane, a Cahirsiveen native, picked up on that point after his side’s sensational victory.
Keane said: “I found it very hard to believe nobody was giving us a chance coming into this game. We beat Rathmore in the senior club semi-final and subsequently Rathmore beat Crokes, and I felt personally we had a great chance going into this.”
He declined to get involved in talk about ending Crokes’ five-in-a-row ambitions, however. “We’ve only won a game that’s got us into the quarter-finals and we’ve won no competition yet. It was a tough, hard battle but the lads kept going right until the end. We’re not looking too far ahead, we’ve a county league game with Skellig Rangers in two weeks and that’s our focus now.”
In essence, it was a triumph for Legion’s belief in finally getting a Championship victory over their illustrious neighbours. They had taken four heavy beatings from Crokes in 2013 but the memory of all those games was wiped away in an instant last night.
James O’Donoghue and Conor Keane fired Legion into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 11 minutes as the visitors settled early. Two Daithi Casey frees and points from Johnny Buckley and Shane Doolan had Crokes level at five apiece after 22 minutes and there would still be no separating both sides at the break as they went in level at eight points apiece. Dr Crokes brought Ambrose O’Donovan off the bench at half-time for his first competitive action since the All-Ireland club semi-final defeat to Castlebar in February but the game remained nip and-tuck.
Kieran O’Leary put Crokes 0-13 to 0-12 ahead with 10 minutes to go but David O’Sullivan levelled matters. Casey’s fifth point, in the 56th minute, would be the last time the Crokes led, as centre-back Damien O’Sullivan and James O’Donoghue put Legion in front again (0-15 to 0-14).
Kerry minor Micheal Burns looked to have sent the game to extra-time with Crokes’ final score but Legion refused to let such a golden opportunity for victory slip. Billy Maguire and Conor Keane (his sixth point of the match) scored what proved to be winning points as Legion recorded a victory that will earn them bragging rights for the months ahead.
Scorers for Killarney Legion: C Keane (0-6, 1f), J O’Donoghue (0-5, 2f), David O’Sullivan (0-4, 2f), Damien O’Sullivan and B Maguire (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dr Crokes: D Casey (0-5, 4f), C Brady (0-3), K O’Leary (0-2), J Buckley (0-2), S Doolan, J Doolan and M Burns (0-1 each).
DR CROKES: C O’Loughlin, J Payne, E Brosnan, D O’Leary, F Fitzgerald, A O’Sullivan, S Doolan, M Milner, J Buckley, D Casey, K O’Leary, B Looney, T Brosnan, C Brady, J Doolan.
Subs: A O’Donovan for D O’Leary (HT), S Myers for Milner (37), M Burns for T Brosnan (42) and G O’Shea for J Doolan (55)
KILLARNEY LEGION: B Kelly, C Davies, T Slattery, P O’Connor, J Lyne, D O’Sullivan, D Sheahan, K Breen, P Lucey, K Slattery, J O’Donoghue, B McGuire, D O’Sullivan, M O’Sullivan, C Keane
Sub: J O’Neill for K Slattery (51).
Referee: C O Dubhda (An Gaeltacht).