Kilmacud march on in dour struggle
Kilmacud 0-13 Garrycastle 0-10
DUBLIN champions Kilmacud Crokes march on in search of a second Leinster title in three years, but Garrycastle of Westmeath came very close to causing a major upset at Parnell Park yesterday.
Crokes, fuelled by outrage over a four-week ban handed out to Adrian Morrissey last week, needed every ounce of motivation and pride to get over Garrycastle.
This tense and hard-fought encounter between two sets of very determined players was no classic, but the entertainment level was high due to the commitment of both sides.
Ultimately the 2009 All-Ireland champions had just a little too much experience and panel power to call on which got them through to face Rhode of Offaly in the final.
Crokes full-forward Brian Kavanagh, who contributed six points, two of them frees, won the Man of the Match award and promptly dedicated it to the whole team, on and off the pitch.
"Pure doggedness won it for us and we did it for Adrian Morrissey and for the five or six lads that are injured," he said.
Crokes started well, with Mark Vaughan and Declan Kellegher getting two points within the first four minutes, but once Dessie Dolan got Garrycastle's first score from a '45', it was truly 'game on'.
The sides were level in the 13th minute when Rory McGowan kicked a fine point from over 35 and a minute later Paul Dillon gave Garrycastle the lead from a free.
Dillon was a constant threat from full-forward for Garrycastle, while at the other end, Crokes No 14 Kavanagh did a similar job.
Possession was fiercely contested in every sector and the battle around centrefield, with half-forwards and half-backs from both sides pressing in support of their 'middle' men, was immense.
The driving force of Cian O'Sullivan and Ronan Ryan, along with Kevin Nolan, always eager to turn defence into attack for Crokes, offered a long-ball alternative to milling through the crowded midfield.
Nolan almost covered himself in glory when an O'Sullivan long pass upfield was taken by Vaughan, who skipped into space along the end line and crossed for the in-rushing Nolan.
Unfortunately for Crokes, Nolan mis -hit the ball, and while he got a point, the goal was open.
Garrycastle were 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at that stage with seven minutes left in the first half, and, in response, corner-forward Patrick Mulvihill went down field and made it 0-5 to 0-3.
The Westmeath men stepped up the pressure with two more points before the interval, scored by McGowan and another '45' by Dolan, while Crokes cut the margin with two scores from Kavanagh.
Crokes came out with all guns blazing and raised the pace for the first 10 minutes of the second half, which turned out to be crucial.
Kavanagh got the first tangible reward for that opening burst with a point from a 34th-minute free and he finished off a Kellegher-Vaughan move to score another a minute later.
That left the sides level at 0-7 each and almost immediately, Nolan and Barry O'Rorke combined to open a space for Kellegher to land another point.
Garrycastle matched the hectic pace set by their opponents and brought them back to parity at 0-8 each, with a Dillon point from a free in the 41st minute.
Liam Og O hEineachain restored Crokes' lead two minutes later and that was the turning point.
As subs began to enter the fray on both sides -- Crokes' Rory O'Carroll, who had made the trip back from France, among them -- the Dublin champs defended fiercely and gradually notched up the vital scores.
Kavanagh -- who else? -- slammed over a great score from long range and Barry O'Rorke's point from a free left Garrycastle two points down with 13 minutes left to go.
They fought and fought and a 50th-minute score from a free by Dolan raised Garrycastle's hopes again.
But in that last 10 minutes Crokes just refused to quit and a 54th-minute Nolan score restored the two-point advantage. Kavanagh, appropriately, got the last score of the match a minute into time added on to see Crokes safely through.
Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham and his players were bitterly disappointed.
"It was very close. Kilmacud just had that bit more experience, and were a bit more clinical in the finish but that's the level we're trying striving to reach," said Cunningham.
Scorers -- Kilmacud Crokes: B Kavanagh 0-6 (0-2f); D Kellegher, K Nolan 0-2 each; L Og O hEinachain, B O'Rorke, M Vaughan 0-1 each. Garrrycastle: D Dolan 0-4 (0-1 '45', 0-2f); P Dillon 0-3 (0-1f); R McGowan 0-2; P Mulvihill 0-1.
Kilmacud Crokes -- D Nestor; K Nolan, Ross O'Carroll, C Lamb; C O'Sullivan, B McGrath, R Ryan; P Burke, P Duggan; L Og O hEinachain, D Kellegher, C Dias; B O'Rorke, B Kavanagh, P Burke. Subs: Rory O'Carroll for R Ryan (44); M Coughlan for B O'Rourke; R Cosgrove for P Burke (55)
Garrycastle -- C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffey, A Fox; J Dolan, S O'Donoghue, K Henson; D O'Shaughnessy, A Brown; J McAteer, D Dolan, R McCowan; S Mulvihill, P Dillon, P Mulvihill. Subs: E Mulvihill for J McAteer (39); P Rattigan for A Fox (47); G Dolan for R McGowan; J Duignan for S Mulvhill (57).
Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath).