Dr Crokes 1-11 Castlehaven 0-08
Scorelines may be the only arbiters that ultimately matter but they can disguise all sorts of truths.
Dr Crokes had seven points to spare on Castlehaven when the sides met last year. Six separated the pair yesterday, but the entrails of those two games tell very different tales.
Last year’s provincial final proved to be a non-event, one decided after a mere 10 minutes of one-sided combat. There were only 10 minutes left in yesterday’s Munster quarter-final before the debate finally lost its vigour.
The Cork side managed the not inconsiderable task of keeping (an admittedly deep-lying) Colm Cooper scoreless and for most of that time they clung onto the coattails of a side infinitely more experienced at this level than themselves.
Castlehaven engineered a profitable habit of squeaking games at the death in Cork this year but they were deprived the delight of putting Crokes through the ringer by the game’s only goal, and just when things were getting truly interesting.
It seemed, at first, to be a fortuitous score that broke Castlehaven’s hearts but it was later confirmed Daithi Casey’s raking diagonal ball had grazed at least the fingertips of Gavin O’Shea before finding the visitors’ net via a post. O’Shea was on the pitch less than a minute and his first contribution came just as the chant of ‘Haven’ began to gather real volume around the beautifully appointed Dr Crokes grounds on Lewis Road for the first time.
Holding the game on the club’s own patch rather than across the road in Fitzgerald Stadium made for a cosy atmosphere, but the worry was that it would not suit the Kerry side so much as the bigger ground’s vast expanses.
It would be unfair on Castlehaven to attribute the keen nature of the contest merely to the expanse, or otherwise, of grass.
More influential was the visiting side’s tactical approach which boiled down to safety first. And last.
Roland Whelton hovered about as the spare man in defence throughout and the Cork side’s half-forward line gravitated back towards their defence en masse from the off in an attempt to prevent a repeat of 2012.
Brian Hurley, chief assassin in the Cork championship, was thus isolated for long stretches and his brief was made all the more difficult by the presence of Eoin Brosnan stationed in front of both him and marker Luke Quinn.
With so few men committed to attack, ‘Haven needed everything to fall their way but Crokes’ strength in numbers at the back meant that, invariably, they managed to snuff out attacks via a hand here or a foot there.
Hurley would end the afternoon with just the one point to his name, and that from a free after 52 minutes, but Castlehaven were fortunate that his older brother Stephen stepped up and split the posts four times.
That said, he was the only Castlehaven forward to score from play and it was apparent very early that Finbarr Santry’s men would require at least one goal if they were to harbour ambitions of making the semi-final.
Wing-back Chris Hayes had their first such chance but his shot cleared the Crokes crossbar after 28 minutes and the game was over by the time Crokes keeper David Moloney palmed away Tomas O’Leary’s effort with two minutes to go.
Nevertheless, it was an admirable effort from the underdogs who sat on a three points to two lead at the end of the first quarter despite the fact that they played the opening half facing into the bitter wind and rain.
Crokes, though, had already fired a warning shot across their bows when a short kick-out to O’Leary allowed Colm Cooper dispossess the defender and feed Chris Brady whose shot on goal flew wide.
The second quarter delivered more reward for the Munster champions with Kieran O’Leary and Looney the chief tormentors as they tacked on five points to their opponents’ one before the break.
A three-point lead wasn’t to be sniffed at but its currency was diluted by the elements which they would face for the second half-hour and the question was whether ‘Haven would tweak their tactics accordingly.
They didn’t. Whelton continued to sit in the space in front of his full-back line, even when O’Shea’s goal left them six points adrift and with time running out, while Brian Hurley began to drop deeper and deeper in search of possession.
Crokes lost the excellent O’Leary to concussion at half-time but they are one of the few clubs in the country who possess a quantity of quality forwards capable of absorbing such a loss and Looney was paramount among them.
It was, in fact, a game littered with superb scores, given the conditions. Of the 11 points before the interval, at least nine were beautifully kicked efforts from players on both sides.
It will be the goal that Castlehaven remember most.
Scorers for Dr Crokes: B Looney (0-4, 2 ‘45’s); G O’Shea (1-0); D Casey (0-3, one free); A O’Sullivan (0-2); K O’Leary (0-2).
Scorers for Castlehaven: S Hurley (0-4); D Cahalane (0-1); C Hayes (0-1); D Hurley (0-1); B Hurley (0-1 free).
Subs for Dr Crokes: J Doolan for O’Leary (half-time); G O’Shea for Brady (48); D O’Leary for Myers (53); S Doolan for Casey (58); M Moloney for Payne (59).
Subs for Castlehaven: D Hegarty for Nolan (half-time); M Hurley for L Collins (48); Shane Hurley for Hayes (54).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).
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