Casey class inspires Crokes' demolition job
Dr Crokes 2-13
Munster Club SFC Quarter-final
WHEN you see Colm Cooper racking up 2-5, it's a fair assumption to imagine that Kerry's baby-faced assassin stole the show yet again but actually it was young team-mate Daithi Casey who was the star of yesterday's action in Killarney.
And Dr Crokes' own facilities at their marvellous club grounds opposite Fitzgerald Stadium were also pretty dazzling and certainly proved worthy of hosting such a prestigious game.
Three pitches, a weights gym, ice-baths and a thermal suite -- Monaleen arrived with six starters who have played senior football for Limerick but before it began they were surely rattled by the scale and ambition of their hosts' superb facilities. And once Cooper had racked up 2-3 of his total by half-time, there was really little else to admire as the Limerick champions were allowed just a single score in a one-sided second half.
Seven minutes after throw-in, the threat that the 2007 All-Ireland finalists posed was underlined when the Gooch blasted a great chance into the side netting. However, the Shannonsiders then got the perfect tonic with a goal at the other end.
A break from wing-back Eoin Keating found Barry Fitzpatrick, who laid on a goal chance for Mike Crowley to fist past goalkeeper Kieran Cremin. Crowley (son of Killarney legend DJ) actually spent a full decade playing for Crokes up until a few years ago.
With the home side without injured midfielder star Ambrose O'Donovan they were worried about centrefield, where Limerick dual star Brian Geary and Paul Kinnerk dominated the early exchanges. Yet, as if insulted by the visitors' goal-scoring temerity, they immediately blasted over 1-5 without reply and just before half-time got the second goal that ended the game as a contest.
Both of the Limerick club's corner-backs tried to control Cooper but to little avail. It isn't just his two magical feet that sets the Gooch apart but his speed of thought and when he won a free after 16 minutes he took it short to Brian Looney, received the return pass and rattled the net before Monaleen even knew where he was.
His second goal was a 'gimme' when he was left with a tap-in following a shot from Christopher Brady that Finbar Nash managed to clear off the goalline.
Monaleen's tactic of short kickouts and defensive passes certainly backfired as they were repeatedly turned over by the Kerry side's hustling half-forwards, which included Eoin Brosnan and the excellent Looney. But the Crokes player that most caught the eye was Kerry U-21 Casey, who showed some fabulous skills as they raced into a 2-8 to 1-2 half-time lead. Despite being marked by Peter King, one of Monaleen's better players, Casey scored some fantastic angled points in his 0-5 tally.
Crokes manager Harry O'Neill revealed that the Gooch played a key role in Casey's development, explaining that when Kieran O'Leary got injured, it was Cooper who suggested that Casey should partner him.
O'Neill feels this year's Crokes team is a much more cohesive unit from one to 15 than their recent models and certainly their excellent team defence, which allowed Monaleen that single point from Limerick senior Cormac Joyce-Power in the second half, bore that out.
The visitors' forwards included players of the calibre of Muiris Gavin and Jason O'Brien -- the latter blasted a great second-half goal chance wide -- yet they were all sniffed out by David O'Leary, Shane Doolan and Shane Myers.
Despite O'Donovan's absence, Crokes' midfield of Johnny Buckley and Brian McMahon took control of that sector and Kieran O'Leary may yet be ready to come off the bench for their Munster semi-final against Tipperary champions Aherlow. They contest the East Kerry final next weekend and have also reached the county league final so, apart from their provincial ambitions, they are still chasing a treble in the Kingdom and, on such an impressive roll, are not complaining about their hectic schedule.
"It's just a matter of keeping them fresh and it's a fantastic place to be at this time of year," O'Neill enthused.
Scorers -- Dr Crokes: C Cooper 2-5 (0-4f), D Casey 0-5 (0-2f), E Brosnan 0-2, B Looney 0-1. Monaleen: M Crowley 1-1, C Joyce-Power, M Gavin (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Dr Crokes -- K Cremin; J Payne, M Moloney, D O'Leary; S Doolan, L Quinn, S Myers; B McMahon, J Buckley; A Kenneally, E Brosnan, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, C Brady. Subs: N O'Connell for Looney (55), S O'Neill for Brady (55), J Jones for Buckley (56), K McMahon for O'Leary (60).
Monaleen -- D O'Sullivan; D Bourke, P King, F Nash; E Keating, B Fitzpatrick, P Quinn; B Geary, P Kinnerk; P Russell, L Kavanagh, C Joyce-Power; M Gavin, J O'Brien, M Crowley. Subs: JP Stokes for Kinnerk (46), F Melody for Quinn (52), S Leonard for Joyce-Power (60), C Hickey for Gavin (60).
Ref -- C Lane (Cork).