Magical Cooper to the rescue for Crokes
IN the end it was a familiar story, all about the magic of Colm Cooper -- yet again.
Midway through a rain-soaked second half in Killarney, Cooper's Dr Crokes trailed Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane by 0-9 to 0-7 and were down to 14 men after Daithi Casey's red card.
Cooper and Crokes were backed into a corner, with little room to manoeuvre. But, in typical fashion, Cooper took control of the game despite all the close attention he received, whipping over the last four points of an intense contest.
Along with Eoin Brosnan, who was excellent when he pushed up more in the second half, Cooper rescued Dr Crokes on a day when the Kerry champions were pushed all the way by a well-organised Kilmurry-Ibrickane.
After a strong start to the second half saw scores from the impressive pair of Enda Coughlan -- later to receive a straight red card -- and Noel Downes, as well as sub Johnny Daly, Kilmurry-Ibrickane surged ahead by 0-9 to 0-6. A shock was on the cards.
But John Kennedy's side failed to score for the last 23 minutes and struggled to make their extra-man advantage count when Casey received his second yellow card with 16 minutes to go -- a total of 11 yellow cards (eight to Crokes) and two red cards were dished out.
Dr Crokes manager Harry O'Neill reckoned that Casey's red card actually spurred the home side on, explaining: "You need something in a game to really get your guys up for it and that may have been the turning point.
"When Daithi got sent off, the rest of the guys said 'we better stand up and be counted'. That's what they did."
In that final quarter, sub Chris Brady made an instant impact with a point before Kieran O'Leary and Cooper combined to set the latter up for a score that left Crokes a single point behind, 0-9 to 0-8.
Cooper then took over in the scoring stakes. After Kilmurry-Ibrickane's Michael Hogan lost the ball, Brosnan set up Cooper to level the game before the Kerry captain swung one over from distance to push the home side in front by 0-10 to 0-9 with eight minutes left.
With the game building towards a crescendo, Kilmurry-Ibrickane's Coughlan then received a straight red before Michael O'Dwyer squandered a great chance of tying the scores once more, as the chance of glory was slipping from the Clare side's grasp.
Crokes, patient and composed when it really mattered, used all of their experience as Cooper picked off the final two scores to end Kilmurry-Ibrickane's interest in the Munster campaign.
In reflective mood, manager John Kennedy admitted: "Crokes deserved it because they stuck in with it right to the end. But for 50 minutes we matched one of the best teams in the country. At the end there were a few chances that maybe we could have gotten."
Kennedy was hugely proud of Kilmurry-Ibrickane's performance, particularly in the first half when they raced 0-3 to 0-0 in front inside three minutes, with Noel Downes, who caused plenty of problems in the first half, Coughlan and Michael Hogan delighting the large visiting support.
Back came Crokes, with a brace apiece from Casey and Kieran O'Leary, to hit the front, 0-4 to 0-3, only for Evan Talty, Ian McInerney and sub Johnny Daly -- a score that should not have stood as Cooper was fouled in possession while attacking before Kilmurry-Ibrickane launched a counter-attack -- to send the Clare men two clear.
A monstrous Johnny Buckley effort left Dr Crokes just a point behind at half-time, 0-6 to 0-5, and despite Kilmurry-Ibrickane leading by three at one stage of the second half, they had no answer to the Cooper and Brosnan double act, while Kieran O'Leary also showed up well. It wasn't vintage Crokes by any means but, not for the first time, they emerged unscathed from a game they could have lost. And not for the first time, Cooper more than played his part.
Scorers -- Dr Crokes: C Cooper 0-4 (1f) , K O'Leary, D Casey (1f) 0-3 each, J Buckley, C Brady 0-1 each. Kilmurry-Ibrickane: E Coughlan, N Downes, J Daly (1f) 0-2 each, E Talty, M Hogan, I McInerney (1f) 0-1 each.
Dr Crokes -- A Kelly; J Payne, L Quinn, D O'Leary; F Fitzgerald, E Brosnan, S Myers; A O'Donovan, J Buckley; A Kenneally, D Casey, B Looney; C Cooper, K O'Leary, J Doolan. Subs: B McMahon for D O'Leary (h-t); C Brady for J Doolan (41); S O'Neill for A Kenneally (53).
Kilmurry-Ibrickane -- P O'Dwyer; S Hickey, D Hickey, M McMahon; D Callinan, E Talty, P O'Connor; E Coughlan, P O'Dwyer; I McInerney, M Hogan, M McCarthy; S Moloney, N Downes, M O'Dwyer.Subs: J Daly for M McCarthy (inj, 22); N Hickey for M Hogan (58).
Ref -- D O'Mahony (Tipperary)