AIB All-Ireland GAA Football Senior Club Championship Quarter-Final – Dr. Crokes (Kerry) 3-12 Tír Chonaill Gaels (London) 0-6

Crokes in fine fettle for new year

By Brendan O’Brien, Ruislip for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Dr Crokes 3-12 Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-06

Dr Crokes manager Noel O’Leary reckoned afterwards his side had lost just three of the 50 or so games played in 2012. There was never any danger of that figure becoming four. His opposite number, Paddy Clarke, had played up his side’s chances of causing what would have been a seismic shock last week, but there was less than a quarter of an hour played before the penny dropped. The rest was mere padding. For Crokes, it may be more accurate to describe it as a chore given the workload their year of stockpiled successes has subjected them to. “It was a long year, a great year for us and the club in general,” said midfielder Ambrose O’Donovan. “It was always going to be tough coming over here and we have done what we had to today on a tough, heavy pitch. “This was our eighth game on the trot and the legs got very heavy in the second-half. We knew we had to batten down the hatches a bit and get through it and we pulled through in the end.”

Pre-judging the capabilities of teams from the UK or USA is never easy. The Gaels impressed in securing their 14th London championship in what is their 50th year in existence but that was back in October and they hadn’t togged out since. Crokes were coming from the opposite end of the spectrum. Games have toppled on them thick and fast even as the year dragged to a close and last week, found them overcoming Rathmore in the O’Donoghue Cup final. Luke Quinn and Shane Myers sat out that one but both wing-backs were back in the 15 for a game played out in front of a decent crowd and a Tricolour that rested at half-mast after the passing of Kingdom legend Páidí Ó Sé.

The Gaels presented with a panel hailing from 15 counties, and they looked poised to present a serious examination for the visitors after an opening in which Kevin McMenamin displayed his class. The former Donegal player twice engineered space for himself in the first five minutes and his finishing was just as clinical. Had he got his fingertips to a through ball from Ciaran Wall on 14 minutes he may have had a goal, too. By then, Crokes were already finding their feet on the undulating and unforgiving Ruislip turf and McMenamin’s near miss was compounded less than a minute later when Kieran O’Leary claimed the first goal. O’Leary spent the afternoon being shadowed by Peter Sherry, who once played in an All-Ireland semi-final with Fermanagh, but the Crokes captain rounded his man with ease before firing low past the goalkeeper and a defender on the line. Crokes needed just 12 minutes to claim two more. Both goals had their genesis in sublime flick-ups on the run from Brian Looney firstly and then Colm Cooper and both were finished by Chris Brady. The second, fashioned after a defence-splitting Cooper fist pass, was probably that bit better.

Crokes were bending the game to their will at that point, with O’Donovan and Johnny Buckley bossing the middle. By the time the half-time whistle sounded, they had 3-7 to their credit and all but one point had come in the preceding 21 minutes. The Gaels management could have pointed the finger at any line of the pitch as that most in need of aid but they chose their forward division with Ciarán Boyle and Luke Kavanagh thrown on in an attempt to make some ball stick and relieve the pressure on their backs.

It didn’t work. McMenamin was a marked man after his opening and no-one else was capable of picking up the slack. The final margin could have been whatever Crokes wished it but they eased off the throttle in the second period. The game may have been beyond the Londoners but teams of Crokes’ character don’t cross their paths all that often and the Gaels carried on and enjoyed their best period in the 15 minutes after the interval. The only black mark was their finishing. Though they launched a succession of forward probes in that time, they were left to rue the fact that five of them ended with dispiriting wides. Even McMenamin was guilty. Twice. Eventually, Crokes roused themselves as if aware that to round off such a memorable year with a plodding performance would be a dereliction of duty and the last three points came courtesy of the men from Kerry. A marathon season is finally over but Ballymun await.

Scorers for Tir Chonaill Gaels: K McMenamin (0-3, 0-1 free); E O’Neill (0-2 frees); P Sherry (0-1).

Scorers for Dr Crokes: C Brady (2-1); K O’Leary (1-2); C Cooper (0-4, 0-2 frees); L Quinn (0-1); J Buckley (0-1); B Looney (0-1); A Kenneally (0-1); D Casey (0-1 free).

TIR CHONAILL GAELS: B McBrearty; T Gribben, D Harrington, B Collins; M McConville, E McConville, P Sherry; M Gottsche, C Doyle; E Mageean, F Horan, B Mitchell; C Wall, E O’Neill, K McMenamin.

Subs: L Kavanagh for Mageean (18); C Boyle for Wall (22); J McGrath for Mitchell (30); A Concannon for Horan (50).

DR CROKES: D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; L Quinn, S Doolan, S Myers; A O’Donovan, J Buckley; K O’Leary, D Casey, B Looney; C Brady, C Cooper, J Doolan.

Subs: A Kenneally for Looney (49); D O’Leary for Myers (54); G O’Shea for Doolan (56). B Falvey for Casey (58).

Referee: D Fahy (Longford)


AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Quarter-Final: Tír Chonaill Gaels (London) 0-6 Dr. Crokes (Kerry) 3-12

Dr. Crokes successfully negotiated their way past a tricky assignment in London on Sunday, beating Tír Chonaill Gales by a clear 15-point margin at Ruislip. The Munster champions are through to the semi-finals of the competition for the second year running, where they will face Dublin kingpins Ballymun Kickhams on February 16. Having lost in each of their last 13 games at this stage of the competition, Gaels were up against it from the start, and their hopes of causing an upset were in ruins when Crokes hit three first half goals.

Kieran O’Leary (pictured in action above) struck his side’s opening goal to leave the Kerry champions 1-5 to 0-2 ahead midway through the first half. Brady then hit the back of the net twice before the break, as Crokes raced into an unassailable 3-7 to 0-3 lead. Although Gaels opened the second half scoring, Crokes eased into the last four comfortably with a controlled second half display.

Match Preview

Sunday, December 16

AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Quarter-Final

Tír Chonaill Gaels (London) v Dr. Crokes (Kerry), Emerald Grounds, Ruislip, 1.30pm

With the four provincial championships decided in recent weeks, the All-Ireland series stages of the AIB Club Championship begin this weekend with the meeting of London champions Tír Chonaill Gaels and Kerry kingpins Dr. Crokes at Ruislip. The Exiles, who beat Kingdom Kerry Gaels at the Emerald Grounds on October 14 to claim their 14th county title, will be banking on ‘home’ advantage to tip the balance in their favour against a Crokes side that has played 11 matches in the last 12 weeks.

Gaels have been largely inactive since mid-October, while Crokes star Colm Cooper spoke this week of the fatigue that has set in in the Kerry champions’ camp after such a demanding end to the calendar year. Crokes, certainly, could have done without a trip across the water for a tricky quarter-final assignment so close to Christmas, having retained their Munster title with a clinical defeat of Castlehaven just a fortnight ago. The Kingdom outfit didn’t even have the luxury of a week off to enjoy their latest provincial success, as they were back in action last Sunday, when they beat Rathmore to claim the East Kerry title thanks to three Chris Brady goals.

Crokes do, however, travel to London with some inside information on their opponents, as two of their players, Mike Moloney and Shane Doolan, played in the English capital last year with Kingdom Kerry Gaels and the Exiles’ inter-county side. Dr. Crokes’ last outing in an All-Ireland quarter-final was back in 2006, when Colm Cooper scored 2-6 in a 2-12 to 0-5 win over another London side, St Brendan’s.

On Sunday, they will have to cope without inter-county star and vastly experienced centre-back Eoin Brosnan, who is ruled out through injury, while manager Noel O’Leary is hopeful that Luke Quinn, Shane Doolan and Kieran Ward will all overcome injuries sustained in last weekend’s local decider. With a glamour semi-final tie against Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams in prospect for the winners, Cooper warned this week against taking their underdog rivals for granted. “People are saying we’ll handle it and we’ll play Ballymun after Christmas and that will be the real test,” he said. “But I wouldn’t subscribe to that at all. I’ve been at enough matches to know that is silly talk, especially at this time of year.” While Cooper is naturally cautious ahead a potentially hazardous trip to London, Tír Chonaill have a poor record in the quarter-finals having lost at this stage on four occasions since 2005.

However, Gaels do have an ace in their pack in the shape of manager Paddy Carr, who won an All-Ireland title with Kilmacud Crokes back in 2009. Although based in Ireland, Carr’s considerable experience was a key factor in their reclaiming of the county title this year. Gaels have also had the benefit of a recent visit from All-Ireland winning Donegal manager Jim McGuinness, who took a training session with the team last month. “Jim McGuinness came down with the Sam Maguire and gave us a big talk after training that went on for ages. It was great,” said Gaels defender Dave McGreevy afterwards. “You could see with Donegal this year that all the players bought into their game plan and he explained to us how that worked. From listening to him speak it was blatantly obvious why the man has won an All-Ireland. We took on board everything he said.” Gaels have had 13 successive unsuccessful attempts to break their hoodoo at this stage of the competition, and they may need all the inspiration they can to beat a quality Crokes outfit on Sunday.