Dr Crokes eased to an eighth Munster club SFC crown this afternoon, the destination of the O’Connor Cup never in doubt after a powerful opening burst from the Kerry champions.
The nine-point victory over a gallant Miltown-Malbay side represented the Lewis Road club’s second Munster title in three years and fifth this decade. They’ll meet the Leinster champions in the New Year, Pat O’Shea’s charges now just one hour from a second All-Ireland club final appearance in three years.
The underdogs from Clare, appearing in their first Munster senior club final, endured the worst possible start as Crokes charged into a 1-6 to 0-0 lead by the 13th minute.
A Gavin O’Shea point in the second minute was quickly followed by a David Shaw goal as Kieran O’Leary’s delivery into the danger area evaded a number of players on both sides. Daithí Casey, goalkeeper Shane Murphy (‘45) and Tony Brosnan (0-2) swelled the favourites’ tally as Miltown-Malbay appeared headed for the longest of afternoons.
To their credit, they didn’t accept their likely fate. Kieran Keavey kicked their opener after 13 minutes, with Darragh McDonagh doubling their tally after Crokes were turned-over deep in their own half.
Miltown-Malbay cut the gap to five (1-7 to 1-2) on 19 minutes, Oisin Looney ghosting through the centre and blasting to the net when fed by Conor Cleary. The gap was never closer than five points beyond this juncture.
Michael Neylon’s charges were operating with two sweepers - Brian Curtin and Kevin Keavey - and while they were certainly unsettling Crokes when running at them on the counter, their packed defence wasn’t enjoying a huge amount of success in keeping quiet the opposition attack.
The gap was six at the break, 1-10 to 1-4, and it could have been closer but two Eoin Cleary frees which were wide of the target.
It was Miltown-Malbay who needed the better second-half start, but, as was the case in the opening period, it was their opponents who made the early running. A Daithí Casey burst right from the throw-in resulted in the midfielder being fouled, Casey himself converting the free. There followed a sweeping move involving Brosnan, Kieran O’Leary and Micheál Burns, ending with Brian Looney extending their lead to eight.
Of the opening five second-half points, four were kicked by men wearing black and amber. Eoin Cleary (two free), Darragh McDonagh and full-back Enda O’Gorman kept the Miltown-Malbay account ticking over, but it was a lost cause they were chasing.
McDonagh bagged a consolation goal in second-half stoppages. It mattered not. The contest had long been decided. Crokes, untested in their three provincial outings, march on.
Scorers for Dr Crokes: T Brosnan (0-8, 0-5 frees); D Casey (0-3, 0-2 frees); D Shaw (1-0); B Looney, M Burns, K O’Leary (0-2 each); J Buckley, G O’Shea, S Murphy (0-1 ‘45), J Kiely (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay: D McDonagh (1-2); E Cleary (0-3, 0-2 frees); O Looney (1-0); K Malone (0-2); K Keavey, E O’Gorman (0-1 each).
Dr Crokes: S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, S Doolan; D O’Leary, F Fitzgerald, G White; J Buckley, D Casey; M Burns, G O’Shea, B Looney; D Shaw, K O’Leary, T Brosnan.
Subs: M Potts for Doolan (40 mins); C Cooper for Looney (44); A O’Sullivan for Moloney (48); J Kiely for Shaw (50); D Naughten for D O’Leary (55); B Fitzgerald for Burns (59).
St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay: S O’Brien; E O’Gorman, G Kelly, E O’Brien; C Hehir, A McGuane, J O’Connor; O Looney, C Cleary; K Keavey, E Cleary, K Malone; B Curtin, D McDonagh, C Murray.
Subs: M Murray for Hehir (29 mins, inj); E Curtin for Keavey (HT); G Kelly for O’Connor (43); S Malone for Curtin (50); E Reidy for McGuane (55); G Malone for Looney (60).
Referee: A Kissane (Waterford).