Looney lords it as Crokes grab second straight title
On murky Sunday afternoons in the deepest depths of winter, club matches of this genre are not supposed to serve up football like this.
The stereotype for finals that finish in near darkness in the month of December generally follow a pattern of grind and grit, not the type of fluid and snappy play that marked Dr Crokes' fifth Munster football success and their second successive title.
Rarely, if ever, has a club side scored 19 points at this time of year to land a provincial title.
What's more, some of the points and approach work were of the highest quality with the movement and kicking precision of the Crokes forwards a joy to behold.
Asked whether it was the best he had seen from this attack, Crokes joint-manager, chairman and club stalwart of the past Vince Casey couldn't challenge such rhetoric. He had sensed it all week.
"It was (their best). We did the same against Dingle in the first half (Kerry final). We wanted a good start and we got that. Our forward movement was incredible. We did about 15 minutes of football at training on Thursday night and the forwards were moving so well I said to myself that these lads were ready to explode.
"There was ferocious movement and every one of them contributed. Brian Looney was exceptional out there. The whole movement and creation of space was marvellous – they brought the A game to the table."
Looney finished with a haul of seven points including one converted 45 for good measure while each one of his other five colleagues contributed from play.
With Johnny Buckley delivering a level of dominance at midfield that won't be lost on the new Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Crokes really had it all their own way.
Kieran O'Leary ran the Castlehaven defence ragged down both wings and finished with three points but inevitably the greatest return on the admission fee for the 2,108 paying patrons was the sublime touches and passing of Colm Cooper.
It would be wrong to say that he was their most influential player on the day but he delivered the final pass or won the free for at least six of their 19 scores.
Two of his passes in the first half drew gasps from the crowd each time, one from a free over the top that carried 40 metres behind the Castlehaven defence into Jamie Doolan who did it an injustice by firing wide when it deserved a goal.
Doolan did make amends when Cooper found him with another deft pass off his right with his first point on 27 minutes for 0-10 to 0-3 lead.
Castlehaven did their best to impose on him physically. Half-back Roland Whelton was yellow carded for catching him high early on, while Sean Dineen picked up his second yellow on 39 minutes when he caught him by the neck.
With or without the numerical advantage Crokes were always going to win this well and their victory, coupled with Crossmaglen Rangers' success in Ulster, means that for the first time three champions have retained their provincial crowns. It has the makings of the most competitive All-Ireland club championship for some time in spring and Crokes will be big players, provided they prevail in London.
Their only concern was the recurrence of a calf injury that Eoin Brosnan suffered in the 21st minute when he was clearing his lines. He confirmed afterwards that he will miss the All-Ireland quarter-final against London's Tir Chonaill Gaels in two weeks' time.
Nothing summed up Crokes' afternoon more than their 51st minute point for a 0-18 to 0-7 lead.
Damien Cahalane lost possession 20 metres from the Crokes goals after hitting a cul de sac and three foot passes covering the length of the field through Buckley, Cooper and Doolan set up Looney's seventh point.
The style of the victory pleased Cooper who acknowledged that the conditions played a part.
"It was a great win and probably a little bit more comfortable than we would have expected. I think in the first half we played really well in the first 20 minutes and that gave us the foundation. In fairness, the conditions helped, the pitch in Pairc Ui Chaoimh was outstanding – as good as I have ever seen it at this time of year and that helped.
"The conditions were ideal, there was no big wind or anything. It allowed us to play, I don't say champagne football, but with a bit more style and elegance. We like to kick the ball a lot and that helped today. The first 20 minutes were very good."
Crokes led by 0-11 to 0-4 at the break and that might have been more had
Castlehaven goalkeeper Paudie Hurley not saved smartly from Fionn Fitzgerald on 28 minutes.
Ambrose O'Donovan hit an upright with a further second-half goal chance but Crokes were content to keep picking off their points and keep the Cork champions at arm's length.
Castlehaven worked hard to at least make it competitive and Mark Collins' probing passes and runs did manage to unlock a Crokes defence that was well marshalled by Mike Moloney and Shane Myers. Cahalane was a significant presence at centre-back too but had a tendency to lose possession in contact at times.
Castlehaven manager James McCarthy easily acknowledged that they had been beaten by a much superior force.
"The best team won by far. We're disappointed that we didn't put up a better performance but we weren't let, in fairness. They're fairly ahead of us. They have solid players there, 27 or 28 players, whereas our younger lads were finding it tough there today.
"We were being beaten in most positions. We're very young and the lads are inexperienced at this level but in saying that every day you go out you want to win. Here last year after the county final we were devastated and it took great guts and commitment from the boys to come back and down it again.
"It's the commitment more than anything because they're coming from Dublin and London and Wexford and it's not easy for them."
Scorers – Dr Crokes: B Looney 0-7 (1f), C Cooper (2f), K O'Leary 0-3 each, J Buckley, J Doolan 0-2 each, C Brady, D Casey 0-1 each. Castlehaven: M Collins 0-6 (4f), S Cahalane, D Cahalane ( 1 45) 0-2 each, B Hurley (f), S Dineen 0-1 each.
Dr Crokes – D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; L Quinn, E Brosnan, S Myers; A O'Donovan, J Buckley; K O'Leary, D Casey, B Looney; C Brady, C Cooper, J Doolan. Subs: S Doolan for Brosnan (21), G O'Shea for Brady (48), D O'Leary for Myers (51), A Kennelly for Doolan (56).
Castlehaven – P Hurley; L Collins, D Limrick,T O'Leary; R Whelton, D Cahalane, C Hayes; S Dineen, D Hurley; Stephen Hurley, M Collins, M Cahalane; S Nolan, S Cahalane, B Hurley. Subs: A Cahalane for M Cahalane (29), T O'Donovan for Limrick (h-t), D Burns for Stephen Hurley (49), Shane Hurley for Whelton (54).
Ref – M Meade (Limerick)