ANYBODY hoping that this semi-final would be a big shootout similar to the 2008 meeting between these two sides was greatly disappointed.
Strand Road came with a game plan to stop the Crokes from running away with matters. It kept them in reach for about three-quarters of the encounter in Austin Stack Park last Sunday, but the Tralee side never showed the threat or determination that one would have expected from a well regarded forward line.
The game was over as a contest when David Moran missed a penalty with 10 minutes to go, but Crokes' patience in waiting for the gaps to appear in the O'Rahillys defence eventually saw them win by double digits.
Kevin Walshe scored the opening point of the game after two minutes, but Strand Road would not score again from play until the 44th minute when substitute Declan Quill put over their final point of the match.
In between were two frees from Barry John Keane and Jack Savage along a whole load of blue and white shirts in the way of Dr Crokes every time they got possession of the ball. Kieran O'Leary's second point in the 14th minute put the Killarney side 0-3 to 0-2 ahead and they would never lose the lead from there.
The difference between the two sides was probably best summed up in the 20th minute when Barry John Keane had what seemed a simple tap-over free in front of the posts. Instead of taking a point which would have left the deficit at only one, Keane tried to go for goal with the Crokes players on the line far too vigilant in reading his thoughts.
Two Daithí Casey points (the second coming from a superb set-up by Colm Cooper) had Crokes four points ahead with Savage's free making it a 0-6 to 0-3 game at half-time.
The first 10 minutes of the second half offered little in the way of excitement bar two points from Cooper. His Kerry team-mate Eoin Brosnan raised the noise levels with a nice, curling effort in the 43rd minute, but after Quill's point a second Brian Looney point had Crokes 0-10 to 0-4 ahead approaching the 50 minute mark.
From a rare Kerins O'Rahillys attack a game changer appeared to come. Barry John Walsh was hauled down by Brosnan going through on goal with a penalty awarded by referee Sean Joy. David Moran's spot-kick was kicked low and straight at David Moloney, however, as he firstly smothered the ball before getting it to safety.
Kieran Ward came forward for a great point out of defence with two minutes left as Casey, Cooper and Looney all added to their personal totals in an eventual 10 point win.
While the Crokes defence had little to do over last Sunday, what they did they did it well with Ward, John Payne and Fionn Fitzgerald in particular looking composed throughout. Kerins O'Rahillys have made progress this year but they discovered last Sunday that there is a big difference between that and being genuine contenders.
Dr Crokes have sailed into another County Final. Last Sunday – as well as last year's semi-final with Laune Rangers – has thrown up the question that if a blanket defence isn't going to beat them, then just what will?
Over to Austin Stacks in trying to find an answer to that question.
Dr Crokes: David Moloney, John Payne, Luke Quinn, Kieran Ward (0-1), Eoin Brosnan (0-1), Fionn Fitzgerald, Shane Myers, Ambrose O'Donovan, Johnny Buckley, Alan O'Sullivan, Daithi Casey (0-3, 1f), Brian Looney (0-4, 1 '45'), Kieran O'Leary (0-2), Colm Cooper (0-3, 1f), Chris Brady. Subs: Jamie Doolan for Brady, Michael Moloney for Myers, Gavin O'Shea for Casey and Shane Doolan for Ward
Kerins O'Rahillys: Gary Kissane, Tommy Begley, Martin Tierney, Shane Brosnan, Giles O'Grady, Brian Moran, Andrew Thompson, Micheal Quirke, David Moran, John O'Connor, Barry John Keane (0-1, 1f), Kevin Walshe (0-1), Jack Savage (0-1, 1f), Barry John Walsh, Kieran O'Mahony Subs: Declan Quill (0-1) for Walsh, John Ferguson for O'Connor, Gavin Duffy for O'Grady and David McLoughlin for Savage
Referee: Sean Joy (Laune Rangers)