And while yesterday’s final climb back to the summit of Kerry football wasn’t as swashbuckling as the victories over Dingle or Austin Stacks at the tail end of their unbroken dominance between 2010 and 2013, this seven-point dismissal of Kenmare District was every bit as satisfying.
So long as Colm Cooper, Kieran O’Leary, and Brian Looney are among their starting six forwards, Dr Crokes’ movement and precision in front of goal, as was shown here, will be a match for almost any club team in the country. But it was neither Cooper’s seven-point haul, O’Leary’s goal nor Looney’s four second-half beauties which delivered them an 11th Bishop Moynihan title.
No, it was the collective hunger of Pat O’Shea’s charges which saw the Killarney outfit, in front of a crowd of 6,713, return to the winner’s enclosure with a bit to spare.
Kenmare District arrived into their first county final since 1987 with a forward unit whose average age was 23. Young, yes. Potent, too. Come 5pm, they’d managed 1-5 from play between them — a long way short of what was required to end their particular famine — while two members of that attack, Sean O’Shea and Teddy Doyle, were both shown the curly finger in the second period.
Captain Stephen O’Brien was held scoreless by Fionn Fitzgerald, with fellow Crokes defenders Michael Moloney and Gavin White also coming out on top in their individual battles. None but Adrian Spillane could claim to have outsmarted his opposite number.
John Galvin’s young charges were forced to work so hard for every score and that only two of their first-half 0-6 arrived from open play spoke volumes of the authoritative nature of the opposition rearguard. That Kenmare District were still in the hunt at the interval — Crokes led by 1-7 to 0-6 — was hard to fathom. Hanging on, in truth, is all they were.
Colm Cooper (0-2, one free) and Kieran O’Leary swapped early first-half scores with Paul O’Connor (0-2, one free) and a superb kick from the right boot of Killian Spillane. Crokes’ ploy was to press up on Kieran Fitzgibbon’s restarts and Cooper’s third white flag, a direct product of a rushed kick-out, was followed by a Shane Murphy ’45.
A pair of O’Connor frees sandwiched Ambrose O’Donovan and Cooper minors, with the decider taking a decisive turn on 26 minutes. Fionn Fitzgerald intercepted a John Spillane handpass and fed Kieran O’Leary in the right corner. Dara Crowley gamely threw himself in front of O’Leary to cut out the pass, but the 2014 All-Ireland winning captain gathered possession, bore a path towards goal and drilled a low effort past Fitzgibbon at the scoreboard end.
The opening major propelled the favourites 1-7 to 0-5 clear and worse was to follow for the divisional outfit as Patrick Clifford, who up until then had done a fair job in curtailing Johnny Buckley, was forced off with a shoulder injury. Even looking ahead to next Sunday’s intermediate final clash, Templenoe are now likely to be without Clifford and Brian Crowley. Crowley didn’t feature here owing to a shoulder knock picked up last week.
An Adrian Spillane point 43 seconds into the second period hinted at a revival of sorts. It never materialised. Sub Micheál Burns fashioned a fine score to reestablish their four-point cushion and he turned creator for Johnny Buckley’s 33rd-minute goal as the Kerry senior ghosted to the edge of the square where he collected and finished Gavin White’s pass.
John Galvin’s side, to their credit, responded with the goal of the game as Adrian Spillane’s powerful run from deep inside his own defence ended with Teddy Doyle, having taken the offload from Killian Spillane, piercing the bottom right corner of Shane Murphy’s goal.
Game back on. Well, for all of 30 seconds anyway.
Brian Looney dissected the posts in the ensuing passage, the first of five unanswered minors from the men clad in black and amber. Looney and Cooper split the remaining four white flags as Crokes soaked up the concession of the goal and, in the process, ratcheted up the intensity a fair few notches.
Kenmare’s defence was, by this juncture, taking on some amount of water and having to commit numbers forward in a bid to close the gap meant more and more space opened up at the back. Their day was done when a Paul O’Connor missed free was followed by the same player hitting the post three yards out.
The final quarter was a mere procession and Dr Crokes’ somewhat muted celebrations afterward would strongly suggest they are eyeing bigger prizes.
C Cooper (0-7, 0-3 frees); B Looney (0-4); K O’Leary (1-1); J Buckley (1-0); J Kiely, M Burns, S Murphy (0-1 ’45); A O’Donovan (0-1).
P O’Connor (0-8, 0-7 frees); T Doyle (1-0); A Spillane, K Spillane (0-2).
S Murphy; M Moloney, J Payne, E Brosnan; D O’Leary, F Fitzgerald, G White; A O’Donovan, A O’Sullivan; B Looney, D Casey, J Buckley; K O’Leary, G O’Shea, C Cooper.
M Burns for O’Sullivan (HT); J Kiely for O’Shea (48); L Quinn for O’Leary (48); M Milner for Brosnan (55); PJ Lawlor for O’Donovan (59); T Brosnan for O’Leary (59);
K Fitzgibbon (Kenmare); G Crowley (Templenoe), D O’Shea (Kenmare), D Crowley (Kenmare); P Clifford (Templenoe), K O’Neill (Templenoe), J Spillane (Templenoe); T Morley (Templenoe), P O’Shea (Tuosist); S O’Shea (Kenmare), S O’Brien (Kenmare), T Doyle (Templenoe); A Spillane (Templenoe), P O’Connor (Kenmare), K Spillane (Templenoe).
K O’Sullivan (Kenmare) for Clifford (26 mins, inj); M Crowley (Kenmare) for J Spillane (HT); F O’Sullivan (Tuosist) for P O’Shea (HT); P Spillane (Templenoe) for S O’Shea (55); S O’Leary (Kenmare) for Doyle (59).
B Griffin (Clounmacon).