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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Crokes won't be denied

Jason O'Connor

Published 02/10/2013 | 05:36

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Chris Brady Dr. Crokes takes his pint while being challenged by James O'Sullivan Rathmore during the Senior County Football Championship Quarter Final clash between Dr. Crokes and Rathmore in Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney on Saturday.

FIVE years ago, these two teams met in an absolute classic in the opening round.

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Then it looked like they would both dominate the championship landscape thereafter. While Dr Crokes have lived up to that expectation, Kerins O'Rahillys unfortunately have not.

The fact that this is the furthest that the Tralee side have been in the competition since their infamous late loss to Mid Kerry in 2008, speaks volumes of how barren it has been for Strand Road in the County Championship since.

They enter this one as the underdogs, much the same as when they faced Crokes at the same stage in the same venue back in 2002. That day they turned the formbook on its head with a win over the more fancied Killarney side at the time which set them up for their solitary County Championship success since the 1950s.

Morgan Nix (right) is hopeful the memory of that day can inspire his side again, but is realistic about the task at hand on Sunday.

"Any time that you get to a semi-final is an achievement in itself, especially considering it's our first time here in five years," he says.

"We were happy at the thought of having a week off to look at everyone else last weekend, but getting the toughest draw there is in the form of Crokes has taken away that advantage somewhat," the Kerins O'Rahillys manager feels.

Both sides have traded victories over the other in the club championship (Crokes) and county league (O'Rahillys) this year. However, the fact the Tralee side's win came with the absence of the defending champions' inter-county contingent does take the glow off that success somewhat.

Dr Crokes co-manager Vince Casey is happy with the similarity of their two recent victories over Rathmore, but feels the club can't get too far ahead of itself in its thinking.

"I know people will view last weekend as the start of a long road ahead for us, but really we're only focussing on what's in front of us for the moment, that being O'Rahillys. We were very happy with how clinical we were against Rathmore both days but we're expecting a big challenge on Sunday.

"David Moran and Micheál Quirke is as impressive a midfield pairing that you could come up against especially when we rate our own midfield pairing very highly. I know it's the cliché that's often used, but I really think a lot will be decided around there on Sunday," he believes.

Indeed such is the uncertainty about what the Crokes will need to do to not only fulfil their four-in-a-row ambitions, but also secure their place back in the All-Ireland Club series, that they really can't look too far ahead.

Potentially they could have to win three games (including the Senior Club Final against Legion) to get back into Munster, which gives a strong indication of how much they can ill afford any slip-ups.

O'Rahillys' ambitions are not as huge, but regardless of Sunday's result there has been enough evidence in the County League to suggest that the club have taken a step in the right direction this year.

Having a full panel available for the whole year without inter-county commitments has played a big part. However, they also have faced a variety of opposition in the county championship this year that has improved the opinion about their worth countywide.

Defeat to Laune Rangers was a letdown at the start of the campaign, but after seeing off Kilcummin in the Losers Round, the victory over South Kerry in Cahersiveen brought their stock up enormously.

They managed to get enough of a good start to keep Milltown / Castlemaine at bay in the quarter-finals, but when compared to who Crokes have played in the competition this year, you get the impression that they are the more tested of the two sides.

All Crokes' opposition so far has been within their own district (Legion, East Kerry and Rathmore) and, bar a late surge by the district side in the Third Round, Crokes have not been troubled in getting to the final four. There is something that Crokes will be anxious to retain on on Sunday.

"We have not lost in Austin Stack Park since that game with O'Rahillys in 2002," Casey says. "While we're not dwelling too much on that encounter considering its two different teams now, it's a record that we're anxious to keep."

Morgan Nix meanwhile is hoping that his side leave it all on the pitch.

"We've nothing to lose going into this. Everyone will be making Crokes the favourites, but hopefully we'll still be there towards the end of the game if we give it everything on the day," the Strand Road boss said.

The performance of the Tralee side's defence against the all-conquering Crokes forward line will be key. However, with too much for the Killarney side to lose, and no doubt anxious to keep their destiny in their own hands, they should make it through to a fifth straight final.

Verdict: Dr Crokes

Kerryman

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