By John Fogarty
Dr Crokes (Kerry) 1-9 Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-7
A brazenly mean Dr Crokes effort ensured the Andy Merrigan Cup will return to Killarney for the first time in 25 years.
In a dour affair, Crokes led 1-6 to 1-5 at half-time having been gifted a numerical advantage just before the break when Padraig Cassidy was dismissed for lashing out at Kieran O’Leary.
Crokes substituted style for something considerably less pleasing on the eye but they won’t make any apologies after their series of heartbreaks in recent years.
They succeeded in keeping a wind-assisted Slaughtneil to just two points in the second half as their substitutes Jordan Kiely and Micheál Burns added vim to their attack.
They were clearly nervy at the outset but worked their way into the game after Shane McGuigan and Christopher Bradley struck in the third and fifth minutes. Captain Johnny Buckley was to the fore in settling the Killarney men, claiming two marks, one of which created the platform for Brian Looney’s first of three first-half points.
A Cooper free followed and Gavin White looked to have all but put the ball in the net when he broke from deep only to sent the ball wide of Antoin McMullan’s left-hand post when an unmarked Cooper was calling for the ball.
Cooper was eventually found in the 20th minute when Daithí Casey shrugged off Paul McNeill, drove forward and fed him for a goal but only after Slaughtneil had jumped 1-2 to 0-3 ahead in the 13th minute.
Cormac O’Doherty knocked down a long ball into the path of Cassidy, who benefitted from O’Doherty obstructing a Crokes player to make a dart towards goal and he coolly sidestepped Shane Murphy to find the net.
Points from Christopher and Paul (free) Bradley opened the gap to four points by the 19th minute but Crokes were on level terms three minutes later when the excellent Casey followed up the goal he created with a point.
Looney sent over a brace of points in additional time after a nice Francis McEldowney effort before goalscorer Cassidy was sent off for a low reactionary dig at O’Leary.
Scorers for Dr Crokes: C. Cooper (1-2, 0-2 frees); D. Casey (2 frees), B. Looney (0-3 each); M. Burns (0-1).
Scorers for Slaughtneil: Paul Bradley (0-3, frees); P. Cassidy (1-0); C. Bradley (0-2); Shane McGuigan, F. McEldowney (0-1 each).
DR CROKES: S. Murphy; L. Quinn, M. Moloney, J. Payne; D. O’Leary, G. White, F. Fitzgerald; A. O’Donovan, J. Buckley (c); A. O’Sullivan, G. O’Shea, B. Looney; K. O’Leary, D. Casey, C. Cooper.
Subs for Dr Crokes: J. Kiely for G. O’Shea, M. Burns for A. O’Sullivan (both 39); S. Doolan for D. O’Leary (48); T. Brosnan for B. Looney (58); E. Brosnan for D. Casey, C. Brady for K. O’Leary (60+3).
SLAUGHTNEIL: A. McMullan; B. Rodgers, P. McNeill, K. McKaigue, K. Feeney, C. McKaigue, F. McEldowney (c); Patsy Bradley, P. Cassidy; Shane McGuigan, Paul Bradley, M. McGrath; C. Bradley, Sé McGuigan, C. O’Doherty.
Subs for Slaughtneil: B. Cassidy for C. O’Doherty (48); R. Bradley for M. McGrath, B. McGuigan for K. Feeney (both 52); G. Bradley for Sé McGuigan (54); S. Cassidy for Patsy Bradley (blood, 55-58).
Sent off: P. Cassidy (straight, 30+3).
Referee: M. Deegan (Laois).