That had to have been the defining moment of Laune Rangers' season. Their nadir came in the first half when they were absolutely whacked by the Crokes.
APRIL 29, 2012. Dr Crokes 2-18. Laune Rangers 0-13.
From there they started on their journey back to the top table. The second half, as their manager Joe Shannon points out in an interview with this paper this week, showed the resilience of this young bunch of Laune Rangers footballers. In the second half they outscored the Crokes, who had the advantage of a stiff breeze in the first half.
At the time we read very little into it. The Crokes had the game won, they took their foot off the accelerator... and Rangers? Well all we remembered about the Rangers was how comprehensively blown out of the water they were in the first half. A miscalculation on our part? No doubt about it.
The work Shannon has done with Laune Rangers has been seriously impressive this year. They didn't just win their quarter-final clash against a fancied Rathmore outfit, they hammered them. Their big worry out of that game has to be the two first half goals they conceded against the run of play against Rathmore. Rathmore have some nice forwards, but nothing on the order of what Dr Crokes have at their disposal.
They're going to have to keep it tight. They can't, as they did against Rathmore, cough up a costly penalty with less than five minutes on the clock. You can recover from such a blow against a Rathmore side not playing particularly well. Not against Crokes. They're so sure and so steady.
You need everything to go your way against the black and amber and even then the Crokes are good enough to win nine times out of ten. The pressure likely to be exerted on corner-backs Kieran Crowley and Jeremy O'Callaghan – who both had fine games against Rathmore – in Stack Park is going to be multiples of what they experienced in Killarney.
The good thing for Laune Rangers is that they've been there and done that and they know what to expect. Added to that having seen the Crokes run roughshod over them in Lewis Road they won't fancy being turned over so easily once again.
The biggest brightspot for them that spring afternoon was the drive and determination of Peter Crowley. He was inspirational again against Rathmore. He picked up a little knock in that game and missed a night's training, but should be in fine fettle come Sunday afternoon. Laune Rangers will need him to be. They'll need somebody driving forward and putting Crokes on the back foot.
We saw in the second half against Austin Stacks just how effective the Killarney men can be when given time and space on the ball – the fact Stacks were down to fourteen men didn't help matters to say the least. Colm Cooper has been playing at number 11 for Crokes on a sort of roaming commission. Shannon might possibly want to put Crowley on the great man. Putting Crowley on the Gooch would limit his potential to exert an influence on the game, however.
The trouble if you didn't would be finding a man who could track Cooper – Kieran Crowley? Keith Sheehan? Or perhaps even John Sheehan, who has been playing at midfield for Rangers?
Crokes have far more options all over the pitch. They have Eoin Brosnan coming back into the fold from the last game. They have been able to hold David O'Leary and Shane Doolan in reserve. They've got young Conor O'Neill and Gavin O'Shea waiting in the wings chomping at the bit and they've got Brian Looney and co on the pitch playing some absolutely cracking football at the minute.
Verdict Laune Rangers have done exceptionally well to get to this stage and no matter what happens on Sunday they've had a great season. They'll run Crokes closer this time around than the last time, but the Killarney side just have too many options. If one doesn't work all Noel O'Leary and Vince Casey have to do is shuffle the deck and try another. They hold all the aces. Crokes by four. NO new injury worries, therefore no excuses. That's the way it stands ahead of Sunday's county senior football championship semi-finals.
St Kierans, Dingle, Laune Rangers and defending champions Dr Crokes report no new injury problems ahead of Sunday's double header in Austin Stack Park, while Dr Crokes are boosted by the return of Eoin Brosnan, who has recovered from a calf tear that kept him out of the champions quarter-final win over Austin Stacks.
Brosnan played in Crokes East Kerry championship win over Fossa at the weekend and Dr Crokes joint-manager Vince Casey confirmed the All Stars return to full fitness.
"He came through it well. Obviously he was a bit rusty after being out of football for eight or nine weeks, but it's very positive to have him back and we'll be picking from full strength for the weekend, which is great," Casey says.
Dr Crokes opposition Laune Rangers are also at full strength for the game, as are St Kierans and Dingle, who meet in the first semi-final at 2pm, apart from their longterm injured, which includes Dingle's Tommy Griffin.
Meanwhile, with the start of the Munster Colleges Corn Ui Mhuiri today (Wednesday) former Dr Crokes team manager Harry O'Neill has been confirmed as the coach of the St Brendan's College, Killarney schools team.
Elsewhere, Eamonn Fitzmaurice's management team is set to be ratified at next Monday night's county committee meeting. Mikey Sheehy and Diarmuid Murphy will be put forward as tam selectors, while Cian O'Neill is expected to be proposed as the physical team coach.