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Gooch class destroys Stacks

COMETH the hour, cometh The Gooch; and when he comes with his sights on goal, it's all but over for the opposing defence.

Thus it was and ever will be as long as Colm Cooper continues to ply his trade with his trademark ruthless efficiency.

Yesterday in Tralee, it was the turn of tradition-laden Austin Stacks to fall under the executioner's sword as Cooper destroyed their Kerry senior football final hopes in a remarkable second-half burst of scoring.

To make it even more galling, the turning point came just as the Rockies were so close to finally getting parity with the Killarney side who had led for all but the first five minutes of the game.

And Stacks' John Dennis, who seemed to be a conjoined twin of Cooper's so closely did he stick to the All Star forward, might have thought The Gooch was getting discouraged. Then it all changed utterly in just three minutes.

On the 37-minute mark, Stacks were just a point adrift on a 0-10 to 0-11 scoreline. Two minutes later, a cutely timed burst by Cooper, in which he fell twice but retained possession under pressure, brought him space to fire over a fine point.

One minute beyond that, Cooper was instantly alert to the possibilities as Crokes full-forward Daithi Casey made a lung-bursting dash down the left wing, leaving Stacks men trailing in his wake.

A signal to Casey, a move forward, then a shimmy back into a yard of space, and Cooper had collected the ball from his team-mate and stroked it to the Stacks net.


Goal! The first, and as it proved, the only one of the game. A five-point lead in an instant, and in their hearts, every player on the field knew that the Bishop Moynihan Cup was destined for Killarney.

This was not a one-man show by any means.

Crokes were filled with heart and desire, and produced committed performances all over the field, not least from defenders Michael Moloney and Shane Myers, midfielders Ambrose O'Donovan and Johnny Buckley, and forwards Eoin Brosnan, Daithi Casey, Brian Looney and Chris Brady.

Pain was their motivation. Three losing finals in the last five years, the latest in last year's decider, gave Crokes an extra edge of determination.

Manager Harry O'Neill is also the Kerry team masseur, and he rubbed in a reminder to his players in a pre-match DVD on Saturday night.

"The first 30 seconds of the DVD was the footage from the end of the county final last year where we were dejected and South Kerry were doing all the jumping and whooping and the roaring," O'Neill said afterwards.

"So we said 'that's where we were' and we showed them what they've done this year and in fairness, they came out and did the business."

The key element for both sides was shackling the respective county legends -- Cooper for Crokes and big Kieran Donaghy for Austin Stacks.

The scoreline tells which team got it right on the day.

Donaghy was clamped and clambered over every time he rose for a high ball and he looked to have good claims for a penalty in the second half a couple of minutes before before Cooper's goal when he was hauled down once again.

At the very least it looked a free for Donaghy, but it went the other way and the Stacks man was furious.

In fairness to the Crokes full-back Moloney and his fellow defenders, who got away with some fouls, they also did plenty of positive rearguard work to deny Donaghy from opening up chances to the other Stacks forwards.

The initiative belonged to Crokes almost from the start but as the first half wore on, Stacks hauled themselves in to the game and were only two points behind at half-time, 0-6 to Crokes 0-8.

Darragh Long with three points from frees, and one each by Mick Collins, Shane Carroll and Donaghy were the Stacks scorers.

At the other end, Ambrose O'Donovan's three points were matched by three by Daithi Casey, two from frees, and one each by Cooper and Chris Brady.

Stacks manager Wayne Quillinan was slightly concerned at half-time and said: "We didn't panic at half-time but we weren't happy.


"We weren't winning the breaking ball around the middle of the park. That hindered us in getting the supply of ball to the big lads inside.

"We felt if we could get more direct ball to our two boys inside, Darragh (Long) and Kieran we could exploit it but today I've to hold my hand up, we were beaten by a better side."

Once The Gooch went on the rampage in the second half, this encounter was only going to result in a Crokes win.

It's been a good weekend for Cooper. His first county senior medal since 2000 when he was 17; an All Star award on Friday night, and man of the match award yesterday plus, most important, the victory.

"The hunger from last year drove us through. It was a great team effort. We've got to three finals and been beaten and these guys deserve everything they got today," he said.

Scorers -- Dr Crokes: C Cooper 1-5 (0-2f), A O'Donovan 0-4, D Casey 0-4 (0-3f), C Brady, B Looney 0-1 each. Austin Stacks: D Long 0-5 (0-4f), M Collins 0-3, S Carroll, K Donaghy, TJ Hogan 0-1 each.

Dr Crokes -- K Cremin; J Payne, M Moloney, D O'Leary; S Doolan, L Quinn, S Myers; A O'Donovan, J Buckley; A Kennelly, E Brosnan, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, C Brady. Subs: S O'Neill for C Brady (52), B McMahon for A Kennelly (57), N O'Connell for S Myers (62).

Austin Stacks -- M Moriarty; P McCarthy, D Leonard, D Costelloe; P Barrett, D McElligott, J Dennis; W Kirby, B Shanahan; M Collins, TJ Hogan, P McCannon; G O'Connell, K Donaghy, D Long. Subs: W Guthrie for D Leonard (27), F Mangan for S Carroll (35), F MacNamara for P McCarthy (40), D Clifford for M Collins (45), M Collins for D Long (55).

Ref -- P O'Sullivan (Firies).

Irish Independent