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Kilmacud strength in depth definitive



KILMACUD CROKES used their greater strength in depth to eventually account for a gallant Na Fianna in their Corn Céitinn clash at a bitterly cold Silver Park on Sunday afternoon.

In an error-strewn encounter, it was Kilmacud's ability to introduce players of the calibre of subs Conor Caulfield and Brian Sheehan which helped them to finally clinch the points against a Na Fianna side with only one player on the bench.

The hosts can also be grateful to the concentration of goalkeeper Daire Brennan who made two crucial saves, one in either half, despite lengthy periods of inactivity on an afternoon where frostbite presented as much of a threat as the largely ineffective Na Fianna forwards.

It was Crokes who made the more progressive start with wing-forward Mick Dalton striking a superb point from distance in the opening minute and Dara Burke doubled their advantage with a close-in free within a minute after a foul on the lively Dalton.

When full-forward Jonathan Hayes pointed in the fourth minute after a clever pass from Cillian Doherty, Crokes had raced into an early three-point lead. With both teams displaying understandable signs of rustiness in their first competitive fixture of 2010, mistakes were being made with disappointing regularity but, amid all the errors, Andy Flaherty registered Na Fianna's first score with a long-distance free after 12 minutes.

Flaherty reduced the gap further with a glorious point from play after impressive work from Liam Burns, and by the 16th minute the sides were level when Mick Coen tapped over the rebound after Marcus O'Brien's goalbound shot had been superbly repelled by Brennan. With Doherty and wing-back Darren McVeigh becoming increasingly influential, Kilmacud began to string some decent passages and, from one such move, Joe Walsh regained the hosts' lead on 20 minutes with a well-taken point from Doherty's pinpoint delivery.

Hayes' move to wing-forward paid instant dividends for the Stillorgan club when he slotted over a sumptuous score on 22 minutes and a Naomhán Ó Riordáin point on the stroke of half-time left Na Fianna trailing by double scores (0-6 to 0-3) at the interval.

Ó Riordáin stretched Kilmacud's lead two minutes into the second half with another tidy effort but the general standard failed to improve with both sides guilty of aimless distribution and questionable shot selection as the ensuing 10 minutes passed by scoreless.

Driven on by the impressive Alan Stone, Martin Rabbitte and Flaherty, Na Fianna enjoyed more possession in the second half and would have been right back in contention but for Brennan's scrambling save from Mike Hyland in the 42nd minute, although Flaherty knocked over the resultant 65 to gain some reward for their pressure.

Caulfield took centre stage midway through the half with two vital scores, one from play, as Crokes looked to push further clear, but Flaherty replied for the visitors with two frees of his own to close the gap to three points with 10 minutes remaining.

On 53 minutes, Sheehan availed of good work by Caulfield to strike over a crucial point for Kilmacud, and although Coen pointed for the Glasnevin men almost instantly Caulfield was on hand to convert a close-in free as the Mobhi Road side began to tire.

It was left to Ó Riordáin, the game's most effective forward, to produce the score of the match in injury time when he raced past a couple of Na Fianna defenders before calmly slotting over to confirm a deserved five-point win for Crokes, with both sides thankful of the workout with a long season of hurling ahead of them.