Untouchable Gooch inspires Dr Crokes to three-in-a-row
DR CROKES will decide whether they'll hand Colm 'Gooch' Cooper the chance to captain Kerry to All-Ireland glory in 2013 after they collected their third Bishop Moynihan Cup in as many years with the minimum of fuss at Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
Warm favourites coming into the game, the Killarney side did irreparable damage in the first 10 minutes and, in that period, Gooch -- who has been Kerry captain for the past two seasons -- was simply untouchable.
From five possessions, he provided 2-2 in assists and kicked a point himself as they raced into a 2-4 to 0-2 lead after a mere 10 minutes, an advantage that would prove irretrievable.
It could have been even worse for Dingle -- who were looking for their first senior title since 1948 -- had Eoin Brosnan not scuffed his shot when through on goal.
While Cooper was brilliant, he was surrounded by intelligent players who gave the watching Eamonn Fitzmaurice plenty of food for thought. Brosnan is undecided on his inter-county future and should Cooper opt to pass up the captaincy, there were plenty of hands up for the honour of captaining the Kingdom next summer.
All of Crokes' six starting forwards scored from play. Brian Looney hit 1-2 in those opening 10 minutes and would add another point to seal the Man of the Match award.
Captain Kieran O'Leary kicked the point of the game at the end of the first half when he carried down the right touchline before cutting inside and pointing off his left, while Chris Brady got Crokes' other goal with a calm finish.
Crokes took a seven-point lead (2-6 to 0-5) in at the break, with Paul and David Geaney offering some respite for the men from the peninsula.
But O'Leary kicked his second point of the game 40 seconds after the restart to reassert Crokes' dominance. And while Mikey Geaney landed two second-half points for Dingle, it was almost all one-way traffic, with John Payne and Michael Moloney holding firm at the back for Crokes.
The game had slowed to almost walking pace when Daithi Casey put nine points between the sides. There were 15 minutes to go but that score then prompted a race to the car park.
There was time for Gavin O'Shea, son of former Kerry manager Pat, to come off the bench and fist the game's final point.
"They're a fantastic and awesome machine," conceded Dingle manager Murt Moriarty afterwards.
"Trying to mark their forwards there, they've six awesome players but, not only that, they have them all over the field. They hurt us very early on and I suppose we struggled to recover. We have to dust ourselves down, analyse it and see where we went wrong and try and improve and learn from it. They're a great bunch of lads and I'm extremely proud of them. We'll come back."
Despite speculation in Kerry during the week, Dingle resisted the urge to play a defensive game, with Cooper quick to praise their approach.
"They are a very pure team," Cooper said. "I said during the week that they reminded us of ourselves when we were coming along a few years ago. They are a football team and a goals team, which we would have been known as. They hadn't been behind at all in the championship this year, so we felt if we got ahead of them it'd be a good challenge for them. And once we got ahead we never looked back.
"The game fizzled out. It was like the All-Ireland final, with the favourites getting two goals early on. That was a killer for Dingle, who were trying to play catch-up all day.
"Our experience told in the second half and to win three in a row is a fantastic achievement for the club."
With Crossmaglen flexing their muscle up north and Kilmacud Crokes tipped to win the Dublin final tonight, this goes down as a significant statement of intent from Dr Crokes.
Cooper believes they are "in a better position" than they were last February when they got the jump on Cross' in the All-Ireland semi-final only to be outmuscled, but he warned that Sunday's trip to Clare to take on Kilmurry-Ibrickane will be a tricky one.
"Those boys gave us a hell of a scare last year and they won a Munster club a few years ago and they are waiting in the long grass. We'll be favourites, probably. We're away in the Munster championship, we'll know all about it next week."
Noel O'Leary, who, along with Vince Casey and Malachy Walsh, manages Dr Crokes, believes their destiny is in their own hands. "It's up to themselves, how far they want to go," O'Leary said.
"Do they want to sit alongside the fireplace at Christmas? Or do they want to drive on? I think they'll drive on."
SCORERS -- Dr Crokes: B Looney 1-3, C Cooper 0-3 (1f), C Brady 1-0, K O'Leary 0-2, L Quinn, A O'Donovan, D Casey, J Doolan, G O'Shea 0-1 each. Dingle: P Geaney 0-3 (1f), D Geaney, M Geaney 0-2 each, J Sheehy 0-1.
Dr Crokes -- D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, S Doolan; S Myers, E Brosnan, L Quinn; A O'Donovan, J Buckley; K O'Leary, D Casey, B Looney; C Brady, C Cooper, J Doolan. Subs: G O'Shea for Brady (55), D O'Leary for Looney (57), J Jones for S Doolan (58), B Falvey for Casey, K Ward for Myers (both 59).
Dingle -- S Flaherty; T B Brosnan, J Murphy, G Curran; Paul Devane, B Kelliher, J B Brosnan; CB Moriarity, D O'Sullivan; R Begley, M Geaney, J Sheehy; P Geaney, B O'Connor, D Geaney Subs: A Devane for Murphy (17), Padraig Devane for Begley (h-t), B O'Connell for Paul Devane (37), J Kelliher for M Geaney (55), P Fitzmaurice for CB Moriarity (59).
Ref -- P Hayes (Kerins O'Rahillys).