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Superb Crokes comeback

KILMACUD CROKES 2-18, ST BRIGID'S 2-12 - In 2008, there was Newtown Blues and Rhode. In 2009, it was Portlaoise. And in 2012, it's their oldest foes, St Brigid's who felt the full and awesome brunt of an epic Kilmacud Crokes comeback yesterday in Parnell Park.

EIGHT point down at half-time - six points clear at the end. Has to be Crokes?

Not just eight points down, though. Eight points down and flapping and flailing at seemingly untouchable Brigid's players, who were - almost to a man - enjoying the half of their lives.

Hither and tither, they pulled the vaunted Crokes defence all over Donnycarney, winning ball out in front of some of the best backs in the county and pouring through them with unnerving ambition and clinical accuracy.

If you said prior to the match that St Brigid's would score 2-9 against that defence, you'd have given them a decent-to-good chance of winning the game and qualifying for a defence of their Evening Herald Dublin SFC crown next Bank Holiday Monday night.

If you said, however, with any great degree of assurance they'd have that much carnage wreacked by half-time, you'd have stuck the house, the car and the cat on it.

Anyone within hearing distance (and plenty further away) who heard Hugh Kenny's cajoling cries from the dressing-rooms knew that there would be a kick in Crokes, but perhaps not to the savage, staggering extent which followed.

In four second-half minutes, they hit 2-2, thus vaporising a deficit which had been so beautifully opened by Brigid's over half an hour of football.

Ten minutes later, they led by 2-13 to 2-9 and there wasn't a hope in hell Brigid's were going to be able to respond. Not with that defence re-energised and re-invigorated.

Not with Darren Magee and Pat 'Patch' Duggan thriving where John O'Loughlin, Cian Mullins and Barry Cahill had dominated in the first half.

Not, for that matter, with young Paul Mannion winning every ball which came his way. Ditto, Pat Burke, whose calm and bull-strong assurance was perhaps topped by Adrian Morrissey's tour de force when Crokes finally snapped out of the first-half haze.

And certainly not with Kevin Nolan, Cian O'Sullivan and Rory O'Carroll suddenly oozing style and class and assurance in a defence which had been shredding into tiny pieces prior to the break.

A former underage soccer international, Mannion grew in stature throughout the game and even if he spent most of the first half trying to work the ball onto his left foot, he went on to win any amount of it in the second half and he sounded the starting gun for the comeback after just a couple of seconds of the second half.

Burke then struck for the first really significant score, a goal just a minute later and anyone who saw him claim possession 20 metres out knew then that he had only one thing in mind.

And where Brigid's got the lion's share of breaks in the first half, Crokes were suddenly finding fortune in every passage of play.


O'Sullivan sped forward onto possession and in an attempt to lay off to substitute Stephen Williams, had his pass blocked and re-directed into his flightpath by Martin Cahill.

Shane Supple made contact with the shot but not enough to prevent the goal.

Craig Dias popped up to score one before Morrissey went on a scoring spree of four in succession (two frees) and Brigid's were flummoxed.

The sheer pace of the Crokes onslaught was far too much for their defenders and, where once they found quick and early ball into the likes of Paddy Andrews and Kevin Bonner, now they were being forced to run the ball into contact and take on low-percentage passes - all, needless to say, meat and drink for the likes of O'Sullivan, Nolan and the O'Carrolls.

By the time Barry O'Rorke came on to send over a brace of scores himself in injury-time, Brigid's were beaten and Crokes was still rising and rising towards next Monday's final clash with Ballymun.

But it had started so perfectly for Brigid's, it's hard to imagine how it could have finished so depressingly. Andrews, as he has been all season, was flying and when he scored a goal just a minute after Craig Kilmurray's, the most impressive thing about the Blanchardstown men was their unwillingness to take their foot away from their struggling victim's neck.

Ken Darcy, Barry Cahill and John O'Loughlin made sure the half was bookended with the type of surge which would make ordinary teams look for the team bus rather than the scoreboard at half-time.

Suffice to say though, Crokes are no ordinary team.

SCORERS - Kilmacud Crokes: A Morrissey (2f), P Mannion (3f) 0-6 each, P Burke, C O'Sullivan 1-0 each, B O'Rorke 0-2, D Magee, C Dias, M Vaughan (f), S Williams 0-1 each. St Brigid's: P Andrews 1-2, K Darcy 0-3 (2f), C Kilmurray 1-0, J O'Loughlin, B Cahill 0-2 each, C Mullins, K Bonner, L McCarthy (f) 0-1 each.</P>

KILMACUD CROKES: D Nestor; Ross O'Carroll, Rory O'Carroll, R Ryan; C O'Sullivan, K Nolan, B McGrath; D Magee, P Duggan; C Dias, L Óg Ó hEineachain, A Morrissey; P Mannion, M Vaughan, P Burke. Subs: M Coughlan for Ryan (ht), S Williams for Vaughan (ht), C Lambe for Ross O'Carroll (51), B O'Rorke for Morrissey (58), B Hanamy for Ó hEineachain (60).

ST BRIGID'S: S Supple; G Norton, M Cahill, C Freeman; S Murray, C Moran, A Daly; C Mullins, J O'Loughlin; O McCann, B Cahill, C Kilmurray; K Darcy, P Andrews, K Darcy. Subs: G Kane for Murray (36), L McCarthy for McCann (46), D Plunkett for Kilmurray (49), P Ryan for Bonner (51), G McIntyre for Mullins (52).

REF: S Gahan (Erin's Isle).