KILMACUD CROKES 3-11 CRAOBH CHIARAIN 1-6
As the rain pelted down, we surely saw the definitive evidence that the era of Craobh Chiarán as senior championship contenders is over. Failing to reach the quarters in 2014, beaten by fifteen points in last year’s, and well and truly outclassed on Friday night, you could even be forgiven for wondering how many more senior quarter finals they’ll be seen in over the coming years.
To give them their dues, they didn’t roll over. They dug in and dogged out a respectable second half performance to pull back the score-line to some level of respectability. In reality, however, in terms of judging the respective sides for where they’re at, a score-line of 2-8 to 0-2 after twenty minutes probably told a starker truth.
From the off, the Stillorgan men were dominant throughout. Apart from individual superiority in most positions, tactically, Croke’s were miles ahead. Tending to get a man or more behind the ball, there was very little space for Craobh to try to manoeuvre up front. This was only one part of the problem, however. Obviously schooled on the possession and short hand-passing game that comes with a well drilled side who apply a zonal defence, Croke’s were clearly more versed in throwing the ball around at the back. This led to them having ample time to deliver the ball in from the half back line and midfield.
Add to that the fact that Crokes’ zonal defence left more space up front, something which Craobh didn’t shore up effectively with their spare man, Croke’s looked like having a goal threat every time they put the ball into their forward line. If it hadn’t been for a few top saves, one out of this world, from Stephen Chester in the Craobh goal, it could have been worse for the Donnycarney men.
Craobh, for their part, didn’t appear to have anything like the same capacity to use possession at the back and were frequently overturned in their own half back line and midfield. Even when they did manage to get the ball off, frequently it tended to mopped up by the extra man in Crokes’ defence. Quite simply, up to the twentieth minute, by which stage it was all over bar the shouting, it was all one way traffic.
Three points from full forward Oisín O’Rorke (one free), two from wing forward Fergal Whitley and one each from Ross O’Carroll, playing at wing forward, and another from Ryan O’Dwyer had seen Croke’s into a 0-7 to 0-1 lead, before Stephen Chester made a good save when Croke’s went one on one with him. A defensive mix up, however, and O’Rorke picked it up and placed it into an empty net to make it 1-7.
Two minutes later and a sublime hand-pass from Sean McGrath sent Croke’s one on one again with Coalán Conway ball in hand. Chester must have been reeling as, once again, after an exceptional low save after Conway appeared to have done everything right, the rebound ended up in the net courtesy of O’Rorke again, striking in off the ground this time.
Craobh earned themselves a lifeline when they worked a methodical move through a packed Croke’s defence and a clever Keith Ryan flick found the net to make it 1-2 to 1-8. A couple of Robbie Mahon points, one from a free, gave Craobh some hope gong in at the break trailing by 2-8 to 1-4.
Despite Robbie Mahon’s best efforts, Craobh’s inability to produce more than a point in the third quarter spelled the end as Croke’s put the matter to bed with a Sean McGrath goal (we think) making it 3-9 to 1-5.
On a horrid night, it said it all that the only thing that got people’s pulses racing was the shemozzle which ensued not long before Crokes’ third goal.
In fact, by the time Croabh had pucked the ball out after McGrath’s goal, we were playing 14 on 14. As the initial ball was played into Conway, he had his jersey cleverly pulled as only corner backs know how. An over the top reaction saw him swing his hurley back, one handed, at full force into the Craobh man’s face guard. It wasn’t initially spotted by the ref, but the linesman brought it to his attention.
And , as Craobh digested Crokes’ sucker punch, the sound of a loud slap rang around Parnell Park. Centre back, Darren Kelly, had pulled across his man, off the ball, and saw red too.
In fact, it was an ignominious end for Croabh who really could have ended up with eleven players. One Croke’s man had the misfortune of losing his footing near the dug-out only to be stamped on by one and pulled on across the back by another Craobh man, simultaneously. And when their full back swung one handed, two feet from the ball and three inches from the O’Rorke’s head, spectators cringed at the thought of what might have been.
By the time the final whistle went and Croke’s had run out 3-11 to 1-6 winners, all of us none the wiser as to where they stand in real terms, they were probably grateful to still have had a full bill of health, and only the now suspended Conway will miss the semi-final.
Craobh Chiaráin : Stephen Chester, James Ryan, Eugene Farrell, Seán Finnegan, Kevin Hetherton, Darren Kelly, Mark Hayes, Conor Ryan, Francis Usanga, Robbie Mahon, Keith Ryan, Paul Kelly, Damien O’Reilly, Mark McGuirk, Stephen Bennet. Subs : Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ennis, Cian Derwin
Scorers : Robbie Mahon 0-6 (0-3 frees), Keith Ryan 1-0.
Kilmacud Croke’s : Matt Collins, Niall Corcoran, Ronan Walsh, Jamie Clinton, Bill O’Carroll, Jack Doughan, Robert Murphy, Cian Mac Gabhan, Naomhán Ó’Ríordáin, Ross O’Carroll, Seán McGrath, Fergal Whitley, Caolán Conway, Oisín O’Rorke, Ryan O’Dwyer, Subs : Lorcan McMullan, Alex Considine, Robert O’Loughlin, Barry O’Rorke, Damien Kelly,
Scorers : Oisin O’Rorke 2-3 (0-1 free), Fergal Whitley 0-3, Sean McGrath 1-1, Ryan O’ Dwyer 0-1, Ross O’Carroll 0-1, Cian MacGabhann 0-1, Jack Doughan 0-1
By: Stephen O’Meara