Looney just what Dr Crokes ordered
Dr Crokes 1-11 Castlehaven 0-8
Munster Club SFC Quarter-Final
ALL the buzz before this classic Kerry-Cork clash was of the expected shoot-out between the rival gunslingers.
With Colm Cooper and Brian Hurley – who had scored 3-47 during the retention of Castlehaven's county title – pitting their shooting boots against each other, a thrilling early-round showdown was expected and attracted a big crowd to the Munster champions' home ground in Killarney.
But the Gooch didn't even get on the scoreboard and Hurley only scored once in a game in which the filthy weather proved a great leveller and Crokes' decisive goal was engineered by a man who has some previous history of breaking 'Haven's hearts.
The last time Daithi Casey did it a few years ago he was wearing the skull n' crossbones of UCC; nowadays he is based in Dublin doing a post-grad in primary-school teaching in Marino.
But yesterday he was his hometown hero after kicking the speculative lob into the square with 11 minutes left that sealed this victory.
Teenager Gavin O'Shea (son of former county star Pat) put his body on the line to deflect it into the net at the back post, but Casey was given most of the credit even if he insisted he didn't deserve it.
"I was going for a point, luckily Gavin got a touch because had it fallen short I was going to be getting a bit of abuse from my team-mates!" he chuckled.
"I think we were getting to grips with the game but it definitely came at the right time and gave us a big lift. Up to that point it was nip-and-tuck," he said, admitting it was Crokes' toughest game since bowing out to Ballymun in last season's All-Ireland series.
Starting out on their bid for a provincial three in a row, Crokes never looked like losing this but they also never really showed the west Cork men a clean pair of heels either.
The visitors, led by Hurley, Mark Collins and Damien Cahalane, had lost to them by seven points in last year's provincial final.
Castlehaven played with just three forwards; they gave Collins a roving role, and while he had a good tussle with Fionn Fitzgerald, playing him so far from goal was robbing Peter to pay Paul as their few forwards found themselves isolated too often and Hurley was largely neutered by the double-marking of Luke Quinn and Eoin Brosnan.
But at the other end their packed defence frustrated Crokes for long periods and it was often only the smart diagonal passes and quick-thinking of Brian Looney and Alan O'Sullivan who were able to penetrate it.
Local brows furrowed when Castlehaven led by a point after the first quarter, particularly as two of their opening three points were crackers from Hurley's older brother Stephen, one of four siblings in their squad.
Crokes responded as expected and, despite kicking seven wides, went in three points up at half-time (0-7 to 0-4).
But Kieran O'Leary, who'd already scored 0-2 from play, was lost to concussion during the break and Castlehaven's Chris Hayes had already wasted a good goal chance after 28 minutes which he blasted over the bar.
When the Gooch had a free off the wood-work and Stephen Hurley rattled over his third point quickly after the re-start to cut the lead, it was squeaky bum time for the defending champions.
But Looney immediately responded with a great point and a '45' to restore a safe margin and Castlehaven never again got closer than three points, though they plugged away and upped the tempo of their counter-attacks.
O'Shea's goal sealed the deal and a place in the semi-finals against Tipperary's new double-champions Loughmore-Castleiney.
While the Gooch didn't make the scoreboard and missed a couple of frees he still contributed plenty, especially when moved out to centre-forward and the satisfaction for Vince Casey and their management was that others stepped up on the scoring front while he was busy elsewhere.
"Castlehaven have improved an awful lot since last year but we feel we've improved too," Casey said. "They came with a game plan and it frustrated us for a good while but that bit of experience and patience ultimately got us the result.
"You could call the goal fortunate but it showed great awareness and bravery by Gavin and it was the turning point.
"You can't depend on one or two individuals. Luke Quinn did a great job on Brian Hurley, four of our forwards scored from play and Colm still had a big role to play and popped some great passes – we've always said this competition is all about the team effort."
Scorers – Dr Crokes: B Looney 0-4 (2 '45s'), G O'Shea 1-0, D Casey 0-3 (1f), A O'Sullivan, K O'Leary 0-2. Castlehaven: S Hurley 0-4, B Hurley, D Hurley, C Hayes, D Cahalane ('45') 0-1 each.
Dr Crokes – D Moloney; L Quinn, K Ward, J Payne; E Brosnan, F Fitzgerald, S Myers; A O'Donovan (capt), J Buckley; AO'Sullivan, D Casey, B Looney; K O'Leary, C Cooper, C Brady. Subs: J Doolan for O'Leary (inj, h-t), G O'Shea for Brady (49), D O'Leary for Myers (53), S Doolan for Casey (58), M Moloney for Payne (59).
Castlehaven – P Hurley; L Collins, D Limrick, T O'Leary; JO'Regan, D Cahalane, C Hayes; S Dineen, D Hurley; R Whelton, S Hurley, M Collins; S Cahalane (Capt), B Hurley, S Nolan. D Hegarty for Nolan (h-t), M Hurley for Collins (48), S Hurley for Hayes (54).
Ref – R Hickey (Clare).