No, this wasn’t the post-match assessment of Loughmore-Castleiney manager Declan Laffan after his team’s six-point dismissal at the hands of Dr Crokes — albeit he was frustrated by a raft of refereeing decisions.
Instead, this was the reaction offered by winning selector Harry O’Neill. And if the deeply dissatisfied demeanour of the Crokes players was anything to go by as they trooped off the pitch afterwards, it’s fair to say his views were shared by the vast majority of the Killarney camp. Indeed, such was their frustration at the final whistle that there were a couple of strong words exchanged between one management official and a player whilst still on the field.
“Everyone is passionate about what we do here,” said O’Neill. “I think there was a bit of frustration coming out there [after the final whistle]. If we took the frustration out during the match then we might have won it by a bit more. But we didn’t.
“We set out to bring passion and composure to the game, but those elements didn’t come together and so you are going to be frustrated.”
The final scoreline may have had them six clear of the visitors, but this was an afternoon where Pat O’Shea’s charges laboured, rather than strode, to the finishing post.
Colm Cooper, who finished with 1-3 to his name, was the sole Crokes player to seriously trouble the opposition defence. Brian Looney was substituted with 25 minutes remaining; Johnny Buckley was hauled ashore, as was Kieran O’Leary and Ambrose O’Donovan. Throw in Fionn Fitzgerald’s 42nd minute black card and it was just that sort of a day for Crokes.
Cooper’s well-taken goal six minutes in — he was set-up by a delicious Kieran O’Leary pass — was their sole score inside the opening 14 minutes and was cancelled out by two Liam McGrath frees and a Joseph Hennessy point. The latter should have offloaded to Brian McGrath who was unmarked just yards from Shane Murphy’s goal.
Three unanswered points thereafter from Gavin O’Shea, Diathí Casey and Johnny Buckley — the last of which arrived off the back of an excellent one-two with Cooper — put Crokes 1-3 to 0-3 clear. Still, there was never a sense they were about to speed off into the distance. It was as if they were stuck in third gear.
The gap held at three to the break, 1-5 to 0-5, but could have been closer had advantage been afforded to Brian McGrath on 24 minutes. Liam McGrath had been fouled as the ball fell kindly to his first cousin inside the Crokes cover, but instead of allowing the All-Ireland minor winning hurling captain continue toward goal, referee James Bermingham called play back for a Loughmore-Castleiney free which Liam knocked over.
“We were very disappointed going in at half-time at how we had played,” continued O’Neill.
“We showed a lack of energy, a lack of urgency. We were sloppy in our delivery of passes. We had very bad wides in the first five, six minutes, ones, normally, where if you put a blindfold on a lad, they’d kick it over.
“We managed the game a small bit better in the second-half, but we didn’t perform better. It was a very poor performance.” He added: “We knew we were going to be in a battle and we tried to get that through to players, but maybe it didn’t get through to our lads what they were really going to be up against.”
A fine Liam Treacy effort 23 seconds into the second period cut the deficit to two, but it was the Tipp side’s sole score from play for the remainder of the half; Liam McGrath added three frees to the three he converted in the first-half.
A second three-point burst from Looney, Casey (free) and Cooper shoved the favourites into a 1-9 to 0-7 lead with 20 minutes remaining and probably the most pleasing aspect of their performance was the manner in which the defence shut down the several final quarter plays where Loughmore sought to engineer a goal opening.
The visitors finished with 13 men as Tomás McGrath and John Ryan received second yellows on 57 and 61 minutes respectively. When these two teams last clashed in the 2013 Munster semi-final, 17 cards (three red, 14 yellow) were doled out. Yesterday’s card count reached 13.
“We wouldn’t be happy with some of the decisions of the referee, probably all through the game,” said Loughmore-Castleiney manager Declan Laffan. “The big one was when Brian McGrath was through on goal in the first-half. There was no one within 20 yards of him and the referee blows back for the free instead of giving the advantage.
“There’ll be something made of our discipline again. In my opinion, the referee was the one who caused the aggro. Players get frustrated when they feel they’re not being treated properly.”
C Cooper (1-3, 0-1 free); D Casey (0-2, 0-2 frees); E Brosnan, J Kiely, G White, G O’Shea, J Buckley, B Looney, T Brosnan (0-1 each).
L McGrath (0-6 frees, 0-6 frees); J Hennessy, J McGrath, L Treacy (0-1 each).
S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O’Leary, A O’Sullivan, G White; A O’Donovan, E Brosnan; J Buckley, D Casey, B Looney; K O’Leary, C Cooper, G O’Shea
M Burns for Looney (35 mins); L Quinn for Fitzgerald (42, bc); J Kiely for O’Shea (48); T Brosnan for Buckley (54); M Milner for A O’Donovan (59); B O’Shea for O’Leary (60)
D Brennan; L Egan, J Meagher, W Eviston; J Ryan, A McGrath, J Hennessy; N McGrath, L Treacy; A McGrath, E Sweeney, T McGrath; J McGrath, B McGrath, L McGrath
D Kennedy for L Treacy (38, bc); T Maher for Sweeney (58); E Connolly for B McGrath (58)
J Bermingham (Cork).