When selector Harry O’Neill spoke to reporters in the long corridor underneath the terrace section at the Lewis Road end, a voice could be heard from inside the Crokes dressing-room speaking in a forceful tone.
Whoever it was, we don’t imagine they were throwing out congratulations for having overcome the West Kerry challenge.
Crokes did as we expected. Their job, mind, was made all the more easier by a hamstring injury to Tomás Ó Sé after 19 minutes and Jason Hickson’s sending-off just before the call for half-time.
Dr Crokes led 1-9 to 0-5 at the break and while the outcome was never in doubt thereafter, we expected the reigning All-Ireland club champions to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Instead, West Kerry matched them score for score right up until the 57th minute. Subs Paul Clarke and Jordan Kiely may have banged in three late goals, but O’Neill’s words and the noises emanating from the Crokes dressing-room suggested they weren’t all that chuffed with this display.
“We won by 14 points yet we are not happy,” said O’Neill.
“Most clubs would be delighted with that result.
“But we set tasks and standards for the players in games and we expect every one of them to follow that through all the way.
“It gets frustrating when they don’t.”
Which boxes went unticked?
“We probably should have been further up at half-time. We missed chances, we snatched at stuff. We are very self-critical. We would be saying there was a lot of stuff we did well, but there was a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have been too happy with.
“Jason Hickson was sent off before half-time and they were down to 14 men. Yet, they drove at us and we gave them openings. Another day, if they got one of those chances, the game was in the melting pot.”
The direct running of Eanna Ó Conchúir and Tomás Ó Sé troubled the Killarney side’s defence in the opening quarter and although Daithi Casey’s superbly engineered goal on nine minutes handed the champions a three-point cushion, Ó Sé’s departure with a hamstring injury was the game-changer — the concern for the Gaeltacht management is whether he’ll be fit for their intermediate final on October 29.
The winners outscored their opponents by 0-5 to 0-1 from there to the break and how noticeable it was that the first of those was kicked by Gavin White. The attacking half-back had spent the first 19 minutes preoccupied with Ó Sé, but with the renowned Irish dancer no longer on the stage, White dashed up the field to split the posts.
A moment of genius from Colm Cooper secured Crokes their second green flag three minutes into the second period — the 34-year old caught the West Kerry defence napping to curl a 20-metre free into the net.
Dara Ó Sé and Seán Micheál Ó Conchúir kept the West Kerry account ticking over. Green, rather than white, though, was the flag they needed to be lifting.
Crokes had no such issues in this department with Paul Clarke fisting to the net late on. This was followed by two in quick succession from Jordan Kiely, the lively Tony Brosnan, and Micheál Burns doing the grunt work for this barrage of goals.
“The lads coming off the bench are mad for road. It was great to see them showing the hunger they did,” said O’Neill.
Is it any wonder management expect so much from their starting team when the bench is bursting at the seams with talent?
Don’t forget either that Kieran O’Leary was absent from the action.
“All these lads love playing football. They’re getting just reward for the work they’ve put in over the years. To be in another final is brilliant.”
J Kiely (2-0); C Cooper (1-3, 1-2 frees); D Casey (1-1); P Clarke (1-0); M Burns, B Looney, T Brosnan (0-2 each); S Murphy (0-1 ’45), G White, J Buckley (0-1 each).
SM Ó Conchúir (0-5, 0-2 frees), D Ó Sé (0-5, 0-3 frees); E Ó Conchúir (0-3, 0-1 free); A Fitzgerald (0-1).
S Murphy; D O’Leary, M Moloney, J Payne; G White, A O’Sullivan, F Fitzgerald; J Buckley, L Quinn; M Burns, G O’Shea, B Looney; T Brosnan, D Casey, C Cooper.
P Clarke for Looney (39); S Doolan for Fitzgerald (40, bc); A O’Donovan for Buckley (44 mins); J Lyne for Moloney (50, bc); J Kiely for Cooper (53); D Shaw for O’Sullivan (57).
T Mac an tSaoir (An Ghaeltacht); B Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht), C Ó Muircheartaigh (An Ghaeltacht), C Ó Lúing (An Ghaeltacht); C Ó Murchú (An Ghaeltacht), P Óg Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), (PJ Mac Láimh (An Ghaeltacht); R Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), A Fitzgerald (Castlegregory); J Hickson (Annascaul), D Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), T Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht); D Ó Súilleabháin (Lios Póil), E Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), SM Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht).
D Ó hUigín (Lios Póil) for T Ó Sé (19 mins, inj); C Ferriter (Annascaul) for Ó Súilleabháin (36); A Finn (Annascaul) for Ó Murchú (39); G Ó Nuanáin (Lios Póil) for Ó Muircheartaigh (53); G MacGearailt (Castlegregory) for Mac Láimh (56); T Moriarty (Castlegregory) for SM Ó Conchúir (60).
B Griffin (Clounmacon).