Forewarned was enough to ensure that the Kerry champions were forearmed and after capably dealing with an early surge from the Clare champions, the Kerry visitors got on top in all the key positions and controlled the game from there to the end.
The ferry home from Killimer to Tarbert might have been rockier than anything they endured from a Kilmurry-Ibrickane side who won their 14th Clare crown just seven days earlier in a replay.
Kilmurry-Ibrickane, typically, never gave up but they needed to make the wind count in the opening half and they were in trouble when they turned around trailing by three points in an entertaining contest.
Four years ago Kimurry-Ibrickane pushed Dr Crokes every inch of the way at the same stage of the competition, but this time around the visitors kept pounding away even when they had the issue wrapped up.
The crowd of 2,557 at the splendid Quilty venue were served up a decent lunchtime encounter but Kilmurry-Ibrickane really needed a goal to inject some punch into their challenge.
But that never looked like coming against a Dr Crokes side who look poised to play a big part in the provincial and probably national arena in the coming months.
They have added a lot of young talent since completing a Munster three-in-a-row in 2013, and the likes of Gavin White and Micheal Burns showed yesterday they have a lot to offer.
Dáithí Casey, Kieran O’Leary, Brian Looney, Fionn Fitzgerald and Johnny Buckley (until injured), were also key figures but the thread linking them all was Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper.
Time and again he sprayed balls all over the pitch, creating opportunities which nobody else in the ground could spot, and in the end he broke Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s hearts.
The key moment came when he spotted Brian Looney in space in front of goal and picked him out with a pinpoint pass which led to a foot-block and a penalty from Daithi Casey which yielded the only goal of the game six minutes after the restart for Crokes to up a double score lead.
“It was sublime, very few people saw that,” said Dr Crokes selector Harry O’Neill. “He is the most intelligent footballer I have seen in my life. He sees things that nobody else on the whole park probably saw that today. And a lot of fellas will look at the score, how much did he score, and he may not score a lot in the game. But when you pick through what’s happened, he has had a hand in nearly everything that’s happened. That’s the class of the man.”
Kilmurry-Ibrickane just did not have an answer to the barrage but manager Aidan Moloney was aggrieved that a lot of the decisions by Cork referee Kevin Murphy went against them when they were enjoying their best moments in the game in the opening quarter.
“There were a lot of tackles that he lot go in the first-half, that shouldn’t have been. He started making up a bit at the end. But I think when the game was in the melting pot for us we didn’t get what we deserved. We needed a good start to the second-half and we didn’t get it. When that goal went in it took a bit of the wind out of some of our players and we struggled from there on. Not enough of our players stood up today. They played well in the county final last week and the second game in the week was too much for them,” said Moloney.
They only managed one point from play in the opening half, with Shane Hickey getting their opening score from 40 yards. They didn’t score from play again until his brother Niall hit one in stoppage at the end of the game. In between, goalkeeper Ian McInerney landed three frees and their most dangerous forward, county player Keelan Sexton, also kicked three placed balls. You need a lot more than two points from play in a game to trouble the like of Dr Crokes.
The Kerry champions turned the screw after Casey’s superb penalty to the bottom left corner, with Burns adding a point before Cooper swung over three in a row, although selector O’Neill felt it was closer than the scoreline suggested.
“The scoreline would say it was a comfortable victory but it wasn’t easy out there. The Kilmurray lads came out of the blocks quite fast and they put it up to us. In the second-half we took more control of the game. And once we got the goal we kept driving at them. And we were relentless in what they were doing which was nice to see,” added O’Neill.
A visit from Tipp champions Loughmore-Castleiney is the next task for the Kerry champions, but this could yet turn out to be a long journey for the Crokes. Wouldn’t it be some way in 2017 to crown the 25th anniversary of their sole All-Ireland success by making it to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day next March?
Don’t rule it out. They are off and running and there is plenty more in the tank for this side.
D Casey 1-2 (1-0 pen), C Cooper 0-3 (2f), T Brosnan 0-2, K O’Leary 0-2, G O’Shea 0-1, B Looney 0-1, E Brosnan 0-1, J Kiely 0-1, M Burns 0-1.
K Sexton 0-3 (2f), I McInerney 0-3 (3f), S Hickey 0-1, N Hickey 0-1.
S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; G White, A O’Sullivan, D O’Leary; E Brosnan, J Buckley; A O’Donovan, G O’Shea, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, K O’Leary.
M Burns for Buckley (22); L Quinn for Moloney (29), T Brosnan for O’Shea (52), J Kiely for Looney (52), M Milner for O’Leary (55), PJ Lawlor for Cooper (59).
I McInerney; M Killeen, D Hickey, M McMahon; D Sexton, C Morrissey, D Callinan; K King, E Coughlan; M McCarthy, M Hogan, S Hickey; M O’Dwyer, P O’Dwyer, Keelan Sexton.
S Moloney for O’Dwyer (24), J McNamara for Callinan (30), N Hickey for Hogan (40), Keith Sexton for McCarthy (52), K Killeen for S Hickey (55), T O’Connor for Coughlan (60).
K Murphy (Cork).