O’Toole’s 3-18 Crumlin 0-19
No quarter was asked or given as two rivals of old were reacquainted in knock-out championship hurling. It was hard hitting and not for the faint hearted. O’Tooles’ wing forward, Ger Arthur, being unceremoniously being told to get up by mentors and teammates alike after a frontal challenge left him on the ground, bleeding from the nose and teeth, said all there was to be said about the sides’ respective attitude to the physicality of the game.
The irony in the end was, perhaps, the fact that a tactic which Crumlin implemented, worked more to O’Tooles’ advantage than their own. Their implementation of a sweeper on O’Tooles’ puck-outs left O’Toole’s with a sweeper of their own who did a lot more sweeping than Crumlin’s did, and which they generally used to significantly greater effect than Crumlin’s.
Key to this was their keeper, the ageless Brendan McLoughlin, proverbial conductor of the orchestra. With Crumlin dropping a man back on the puck outs, it was the former Dublin keeper’s ability to pick out O’Tooles’ spare man; full back line, half back line or midfield, which was crucially the difference.
Time and again, a single puck from McLoughlin, or the puck-out and one more, put O’Toole’s in clean and uncontested possession around their own half back line. Michael Carton’s ability, at wing back, to read the situation and put himself in the space to receive this ball, was also key. Saying that, had the ref allowed Crumlin to hit quick puck-outs, something which they’re entitled to do if the rules haven’t changed over night, they might have had more success from having a spare man at the back.
As for O’Toole’s, when they couldn’t manoeuvre the short one, they had the old reliable long down the middle. With Liam Ryan’s aerial dominance at centre forward, it wasn’t a bad option either. While he might not have won a huge amount cleanly, he certainly lost none and his ability to contort his body into a position that created the optical illusion that he was being fouled, made him a handful for Peter Elliot at centre back to deal with. A number of frees came from this direct route. With this option on the long ones and their dominance on possession garnered from the short ones, it was a win/win situation for the Larriers.
Almost as significant as McLoughlin’s puck-outs was his ability in possession. His ability to take a ball in his hand and dance his way through opposition forwards and hand-pass the ball off to a free man, as opposed to doing what most keepers would do and whacking it out of harm’s way, was indicative of how O’Toole’s pulled the strings around the field with clever and efficient hand-passing. On at least three occasions, O’Toole’s scores started with McLoughlin maintaining possession and handing it off. It’s value couldn’t be underestimated. If Pepe Guardiola managed a hurling team, with his love of building from the back with possession, McLoughin would be his keeper.
Saying all of that, it wasn’t as one way as the final result might make it appear. With ten minutes remaining, and O’Toole’s two goals up, the only thing which separated the two sides were O’Tooles’ three goals, two in particular, which Crumlin wouldn’t have been overjoyed about how they’d conceded. They had found Alex Quinn too hot to handle at the back, and had Crumlin not conceded two soft goals, he may have been the hero of the day.
It was “even Steven” up until just before the quarter hour mark at six points apiece with neither side looking particularly on top. Then the veteran Dublin forward, Liam Ryan, picked up the ball with his back to goal around the “21” with no apparent goal threat. Using all of his experience and footwork, he somehow managed, not alone to turn, but to jink inside the two defenders, and with a third converging, kicked it to the net.
A couple of minutes later the wind was taken completely out of Crumlin’s sails when Niall Arthur connected sweetly with a side-line cut on the right from near the “45”, only to see it drop short. Maher, in the Crumlin goal, looked confident as he went to pluck it from the air, but it evaded his grasp and dropped into the net. It was a sucker punch for Crumlin, just minutes after conceding the first.
Crumlin didn’t wither, however. With midfielder, Lee Coleman, spreading lovely ball from the middle, a four point flurry, two from wing forward, Conor Foley, saw Crumlin claw their way back to 2-9 to 0-11 by half time.
Adding a fifth point in a row after the break, they may have felt they were getting back into it, when Maher, in goals, batted a high ball out and allowed Ryan onto possession just outside the square. With the goal threat looming, Ryan was hauled down for a penalty which Ger Arthur dispatched, adding to a fine all round display by the wing forward.
It was tit for tat score-wise for the next twenty minutes, but Crumlin were unable to eat significantly enough into O’Tooles’ lead. The closest they managed was a four point deficit with seventeen minutes remaining. With Niall Arthur and Peadair Carton dominant up front, not to mention the evergreen Paul O’Donoghue, O’Tooles had the capacity to keep them at arm’s length.
Had Crumlin been more accurate in the latter stages, as they chased a six point game, they might have been close enough to launch a last gasp assault. However, with their shooting letting them down, and Ben Quinn being sent off after an altercation near the side-line in the 52nd minute, O’Toole’s looked comfortable in the final stages.
Crumlin would end with thirteen men when Kevin Byrne was booked for a second time after Ger Arthur was flattened full frontal for the second time in the game. Looking dazed, he got back on his feet without looking for any sympathy. His first half trials suggested he wouldn’t have got much anyway. He won’t be too upset as O’Toole’s ran out 3-18 to 0-19 winners to advance to the semi-finals.
Special thanks to Shane Martin for his help out at O’Toole Park
O’Toole’s : Brendan McLoughlin, Ciarán Gettings, Kevin Ryan, Ciarán Kimage, Michael Carton, Ger O’Meara, Richie Walker, Michael Cunningham, Aaron Lynch, Ger Arthur, Liam Ryan, Graham Morris, Niall Arthur, Peadar Carton, Paul O’Donoghue Subs : Andy Morris, Cian Wilson, Eoghan Darcy, Paul Bradshaw
Scorers : Niall Arthur 1-10 (0-6 frees, 1-0 sideline), Peadar Carton 0-4, Liam Ryan 1-1, Ger Arthur 1-2 (1-0 peno), Paul O’Donoghue 0-1
Crumlin : Jamie Maher, Paul Devlin, Jonh Cullen, Alan Byrne, Conor Murphy, Peter Elliot, Kevin Byrne, Lee Coleman, Ben Quinn, Conor Foley, Stephen Cullen, Craig Gough, Alex Quinn, Shane Ryan, Adam McGreal. Subs : Barry O’Rielly, David Kellet
Scorers : Adam McGreal 0-10 (0-8 frees), Alex Quinn 0-5, Conor Foley 0-2, Lee Coleman 0-2, Peter Elliot 0-1
By: Stephen O’Meara