Early Shaw goal just what Dr Crokes ordered as Munster is secured
Munster Club SFC Final: Dr Crokes 1-21 St Joseph's Miltown Malbay (Clare) 2-9
Any neutrals who decamped to the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday to enjoy the Munster Club Football Final got exactly three minutes of value for their money. That's how long it took before David Shaw had the ball in the Miltown Malbay net and the destination of this provincial title signed, sealed and delivered. If that seems presumptuous or conceited or foolhardy then don't just take our word for it.
"We'll probably rue (the bad start) for a long time as we look back," Miltown Malbay manager Michael Neylon said, "because once that ten minutes was over we got to grips with the game and we probably dominated the next twenty minutes. We needed the start that Crokes got to be in this game at half time and be in the game in the closing straight. We didn't get that and we paid the price heavily for it."
Shaw's goal, perfectly teed up from Kieran O'Leary's laser-like pass put Dr Crokes four points ahead, and when O'Leary converted a point in the 12th minute Dr Crokes were nine clear, 1-6 to no score, with the Clare champions looking every inch a limited and naive and panic-stricken team.
Credit, then, the second quarter recovery they engineered, kick-started by Kevin Keavey's 13th minute point - greeted by the St Joseph's faithful as if it was a rain shower in a desert - and further fuelled by another from Darragh McDonagh, before his midfield partner, Oisin Looney, finished off a fine, slick move to raise a green flag in the 20th minute.
That made it 1-7 to 1-2 and gave Crokes brief pause for thought, but two points within a minute of each other from Daithi Casey and Brian Looney put the gap out to seven again.
Miltown Malbay probed the Crokes defence a couple of more times before the interval and briefly threatened another goal, but they had to settle for points from Eoin Cleary and Kieran Malone to make it 1-10 to 1-4 to the Kerry champions at the break.
Early second half scores from Tony Brosnan and Looney stretched Crokes' lead to seven and they never looked in danger after that as they ran their full bench, including Colm Cooper, who still has to make do with a place on that bench.
"We came here with ambitions, we came here to see if we could snatch it but we found out that we came up against the better team," Neylon said. "It's a great experience for all of these players to go out and play a team like Crokes. There was a huge standard there and in a lot of aspects of the game we felt we matched them, but there was some slickness there on the part of the Crokes that we found it hard to get to grips with."
That slickness was indeed the difference between the teams with Micheal Burns, Johnny Buckley, Jordan Kiely, Casey, O'Leary and Brosnan rounding out the Dr Crokes scoring, as Miltown Malbay had points from McDonagh, Enda O'Gorman and a couple of Eoin Cleary frees to keep the scoreboard respectable from their point of view. Not that it mattered much but the Clare side further embellished their tally when McDonagh scored an added-time goal to give the large Clare support more to cheer about, even though this Munster Final had long fizzled out to its inevitable conclusion.
Champions of Munster for the fifth time in eight years it is then for Dr Crokes, while Miltown Malbay can claim that the nine-point margin was the closest any team had pushed the Kerry champions in this Munster campaign.
Redemption, so, for Crokes in Munster, reclaiming the title they lost in Cork twelve months ago, but this is clearly just a step along a journey that will bring them up against the Leinster champions in mid-February and then, they will hope, to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.
The year doesn't end here, however, with a county league final against Kerins O'Rahillys next weekend and an East Kerry SFC first round game against Fossa the following Wednesday. And if the winning streak keeps going then an East Kerry quarter, semi, and final right up to December 22.
Dr Crokes: Shane Murphy 0-1 ('45'), John Payne, Michael Moloney, Fionn Fitzgerald, David O'Leary, Gavin White, Shane Doolan, Johnny Buckley 0-1, Daithi Casey 0-3 (2f), Micheal Burns 0-2, Gavin O'Shea 0-1, Brian Looney 0-2, David Shaw 1-0, Kieran O'Leary 0-2, Tony Brosnan 0-8 (5f). Subs: Michael Potts for S Doolan (40), Colm Cooper for Looney (44), Alan O'Sullivan for M Moloney (48), Jordan Kiely 0-1 for Shaw (50), David Naughton for D O'Leary (55), Brian Fitzgerald for M Burns (59).
Miltown Malbay: Sean O'Brien, Aidan McGuane, Enda O'Gorman 0-1, Eoin O'Brien, Colin Hehir, Gordon Kelly, Jamesie O'Connor, Oisin Looney 1-0, Darragh McDonagh 1-2, Kevin Keavey 0-1, Conor Cleary, Kieran Malone 0-2, Brian Curtin, Eoin Cleary 0-3 (2f), Cormac Murray. Subs: Michael Murray for C Hehir (29, inj), Eoin Curtin for K Keavey (ht), Graham Kelly for J O'Connor (44), Sean Malone for B Curtin (50), Euan Reidy for A McGuane (55), Gerard Malone for C Murray (60).
Referee: A Kissane (Waterford)
The game in 60 seconds
As expected, there were plenty of Dr Crokes who led from the front in every line of the team, with John Payne, Gavin White, Brian Looney and Kieran O'Leary particularly influential throughout. However, DAITHI CASEY showed plenty of that powerful, incisive running that's his trademark, and he was the fulcrum around which this winning team performance revolved.
Less than two minutes after Miltown Malbay's first goal Dr Crokes responded with successive points from Daithi Casey and then Brian Looney, the second coming direct from the restart from the first. It widened a five-point margin to seven and quelled any notions the Clare side were getting of making life really difficult for the Kerry club.
On an afternoon that Corofin retained their Connacht title and Kilmacud Crokes moved a step closer to a Leinster title, the pool of potential All-Ireland champions is diminishing while also going up in quality. Thrown in either Gweedore or Scotstown from Ulster and Dr Crokes will be in good company when this championship resumes in February. Are Crokes good enough to win it? Absolutely...but Corofin will take beating...