Late Croke’s Goal Denies Lucan
Kilmacud Croke’s 1-13 – 0-13 Lucan Sarsfield’s
It was the finest of margins which separated Croke’s and Lucan in Parnell Park, with Lucan leading by a point, and looking the more likely, going into the final minutes.
A stroke of luck combined with brilliant opportunism would see the game swayed in Crokes’ direction as a move off a side-line ball saw the sliotar come back off the upper post, only for Ross O’Carroll, once again, to come up with the crucial score, late on.
As it dropped, O’Carroll reacted first with the deftest of strikes which he spun right into the corner past the helpless Lucan substitute keeper.
Irony of irony, he had just been brought on, presumably for his monstrous puck-out, with the intention of launching the puck-out which would ensue, down the throat of the Croke’s defence. His first act was to pick the ball out of the net.
As we’ve come to expect it was a tactical game from the off with Lucan paying seven at the back.
While Chris Crummey wore number 6, it was number 9, Ronan Smith who played at centre back, marking Fergal Whitely, leaving Crummey as sweeper, making up a 7-2-5 formation for Lucan.
At the other end, Crokes’ Ronan Smith played as the spare man with Ross O’Carroll maintained as a regular centre back on Kevin Fitzgerald.
Despite the extra man at each end, the majority of the puck-outs went long from both keepers, with Eoin Dalton’s primary mission being the not so straight forward task of keeping puck-outs away from Chris Crummey, who, as ever, was like a shark smelling blood under the puck-outs.
For all of that, it took Lucan ten minutes to get into their stride. With the ever-dangerous full forward line of Oisín O’Rourke, Barry O’Rourke and Seán McGrath winning more than their fair share of ball into the full forward line, off the back of a powerful opening ten minutes by Ross O’Carroll, Croke’s would take a 0-4 to 0-1 lead.
By the tenth minute, however, Lucan began to find their stride with Crummey dictating affairs for their possession game around the half back line as they began to take a hold on the game. Had it not been for some wides, they might have been level by the quarter hours mark, instead of trailing by 0-5 to 0-3.
However, with Smith doing a stellar job on Whitely, Croke’s forward line would cease to make hay for some time.
For all of Lucan’s endeavours to get back into the game in the middle third of the half, three late points for Croke’s undid all of their hard work, leaving Croke’s 0-9 to 0-5 to the good at the break.
However, it became apparent in the opening five minutes of the second half that the wind had been a more significant factor than we might have thought.
Lucan would dominate the opening five minutes off the back of thorough dominance on the Croke’s puck-out. Firstly, a Croke’s puck out to the full back line came straight back at them and over the bar when it landed it Lucan’s half back line.
This was followed by three points in a row off Crokes’ puck-outs, which Dalton couldn’t clear the half way line on into the wind, whereby Lucan swamped them with the extra man.
Johnny McCaffrey was coming to look particularly dominant with line breaks, turnovers and throwing key ball around the half back line.
In fact, Croke’s would fail to register a score for the opening twenty minutes of the half as Lucan reeled off a total of six on the trot to take a two point lead into the final ten minutes, with McCaffrey their main man, aided by Peter Kelly and Kevin Fitzgerald coming more and more into the game in the Lucan attack.
Their discipline, however, which had been meticulous in the opening twenty minutes of the second half, would let them down somewhat as they would concede three frees in as many minutes, two of them converted, to bring it back to level pegging. Perhaps, one against McCaffrey was harsh, though it would be a pattern of the latter stages as both sides got frees for very minimal or shoulder to shoulder contact.
It was a mystery how Ryan O’Dwyer stayed on the field, only yellowed, when in front of the linesman, he came from behind McCaffrey, after a free had been awarded and made contact with his stick against McCaffrey’s head.
In truth, however, both should have walked. Albeit, a completely disproportionate reaction, McCaffrey had swung a boot at a passing Croke’s man, which O’Dwyer had reacted to.
Lucan looked the strongest in the ensuing minutes, taking the lead with a free after CJ Smith was fouled, and looked the more likely in the remaining minutes.
As they say, however, cometh the hour cometh the man. Granted, it was a stroke of luck which saw the ball come back off the upper post, but it was a stroke of brilliance which saw Crokes’ outstanding performer of the afternoon, O’Carroll, steer it into the net.
Croke’s would play intelligent ball for the remainder to stretch the lead to three points three minutes into injury time.
A late sideline into the heart of the Croke’s box gave Lucan a late hope, but stellar defending saw them denied as Croke’s moved into the final yet again, winning by a margin of 1-13 to 0-13.
By Stephen O’Meara