Late Quinn heroics get Dr Crokes 'out of jail'
Dr Crokes 2-11 Aherlow 0-9 (After extra-time)
IF Dr Crokes go on to lift the Andy Merrigan Cup at Croke Park on St Patrick's Day, the Kerry champions will look back on yesterday's match at Leahy Park as the defining moment in their season.
Heading into stoppage-time at the end of the hour, the famed Killarney outfit trailed Tipperary kingpins Aherlow by two points, before an unlikely hero emerged in the form of Luke Quinn.
The centre-back kicked two superb injury-time points but Aherlow were aggrieved as Quinn's equaliser was timed at over 20 seconds past the three minutes of stoppage-time indicated by match referee Rory Hickey.
Quinn's late brace took a riveting encounter at Cashel's Leahy Park to extra-time and it was Crokes who bounded towards the dressing-rooms, while Aherlow's steps were much heavier, already looking like beaten men.
Quinn played a pivotal role again in the first period of extra-time as his 65th-minute goal effectively settled this contest. It was the second of two lucky goals scored by Dr Crokes on a day when former county star Eoin Brosnan admitted that they "got out of jail".
Aherlow's misery was compounded five minutes from the end when Cathal Dillon was dismissed for a second bookable offence, after catching Colm 'Gooch' Cooper with a high challenge.
Aherlow boss Liam Kearns described his team's defeat as "robbery" and only blinkered Crokes fans could disagree.
In the first half, Aherlow spurned a couple of good goal chances and were ultimately undone by errors at the other end. Seamus Grogan stumbled and touched the ball on the ground when through on goal in the early stages before Derry Peters had a goal disallowed when punching to the net with only Ciaran Cremin to beat midway through the first half.
Crokes struggled badly in front of a bumper crowd of approximately 2,000 and were lucky to be just 0-3 to 0-6 behind at half-time.
Tipp hitman Barry Grogan and midfielder Stuart Moloney were Aherlow's most influential players, while Ciaran McDonald, captain of Tipperary's Munster U-21 winning team this year, stuck close to Cooper, who managed just a single point from a free.
However, Cooper was an influential figure in extra-time as he dropped behind his own half-back line, spraying passes to his team-mates and ensuring that the Crokes stayed cool.
How Crokes reached extra-time will remain a mystery as, remarkably, from the 10th minute of the opening half until the second minute of stoppage-time, they scored just a fortuitous goal.
Eight minutes after half-time, Andrew Kenneally's low delivery from 30 metres out somehow found the corner of Brian Moroney's net.
Boosted by that, and level at 1-3 to 0-6, Crokes should have pushed on but Aherlow dug in and two points from Grogan handed them a two-point lead.
Crokes looked doomed but Quinn's late brace yielded extra-time for the red-hot favourites and midway through the first period, Quinn's attempted point dropped short but slipped through Moroney's fingers and into the net.
Johnny Buckley kicked a long-range point to hand Crokes a 2-6 to 0-8 lead at the end of the first period of extra-time before they outscored gutsy Aherlow by 0-5 to 0-1 in the second period, as sub Kieran O'Leary bagged three from play.
Crokes will now face Nemo Rangers on December 5 and Brosnan admitted: "I thought it was gone. We were looking for goals near the end but then we managed a couple of great points."
Kearns, who accused Hickey of "playing for a draw", added: "We were robbed. We had them beaten all over the field but goals win games and the ones we conceded were killers."
Scorers -- Dr Crokes: L Quinn 1-2, A Kenneally 1-0, J Buckley, K O'Leary 0-3 each, B Looney, C Cooper (0-1f), D Casey 0-1 each. Aherlow: B Grogan 0-4 (0-1f), S Moloney 0-3, T Hanley, B O'Brien 0-1 each.
Dr CROKES -- C Cremin; J Payne, M Moloney, D O'Leary; S Doolan, L Quinn, S Myers; B McMahon, J Buckley; A Kenneally, E Brosnan, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, C Brady. Subs: K O'Leary for Brady (44), A O'Donovan for Looney (54), S O'Neill for Kenneally (60+1), Looney for McMahon (76), N O'Connell for Brosnan (78).
AHERLOW -- B Moroney; M O'Brien, J Hennessy, M Hanley; S Mullins, Ciaran McDonald, Chris McDonald; C Dillon, S Moloney; B O'Brien, S Grogan, L Coskeran; T Hanley, B Grogan, D Peters. Subs: C O'Shea for Hanley (44), T Fahey for B O'Brien (57), Hanley for M O'Brien (74), B O'Brien for Coskeran (69).
Ref -- R Hickey (Clare).