Dr Crokes give Castlehaven cause for pain


Dr Crokes 0-19 Castlehaven 0-12:With little more than the briefest flexing of their muscles, Dr Crokes confirmed what we’ve suspected about this All-Ireland club championship since it started getting serious in mid-October. There are clubs and there are superclubs. There are teams who emerge from their county championship euphoric and stagger wild-eyed into whatever the rest of their province has for them and then there is a select band for whom St Patrick’s Day is all.

Castlehaven have had a mighty year, a first Cork county title in nine years and just the fourth in their history. But they’re not a superclub.

Crokes have peers in the game but they have to look further afield to find them. They put Castlehaven away without any undue fuss here yesterday and in stitching provincial titles back to back, they sit comfortably alongside the giants to the north and west, Crossmaglen and St Brigid’s.

The margin in the end was seven points but they could have stretched it to double that if they’d been in a meaner mood. As it was, they were content to just see out a game that was well won by half-time.

Along the way they played some exceptional football, particularly in attack. On the back of total domination in midfield from Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan, each of their six forwards had scored from play by the 28th minute.

Kieran O’Leary and Brian Looney had the Castlehaven defence in tatters at every opportunity and they finished the day with 10 points between them, all but one from play. Maybe the best compliment you can pay the Killarney side is that Colm Cooper was just another brick in the wall.

They bucked out of the gate and after Daithí Casey put them on the board just 18 seconds in, they were never caught. Buckley had set that score up with a strong run through the heart of the Castlehaven defence and he wasn’t long getting in on the act himself, fisting over the bar a couple of minutes later after again sluicing through without anyone laying a finger on him.

Cooper’s first piece of action was a crossfield pass that would have had Glenn Hoddle admiring himself in the mirror. Casey collected and fed Jamie Doolan to put them three ahead.

The uniting factor in all three scores was pace. Crokes do everything at speed and they generally do it with accuracy. Their movement in the forward line was a sight to behold – two or three players forever shooting off in different directions, as unpredictable as sparks from a spitting fire. Castlehaven could track all of them all of the time and invariably the quality of the ball coming in meant the Crokes forwards had ample time to turn and strike.

Sturdy and combative

It was tough on the Cork side. Sturdy and combative though they were, Castlehaven have no experience of being dealt into the kind of table at which Crokes play their cards.

Their one outstanding player is Damien Cahalane, a broad-shouldered up-and-comer who the county side could do with smuggling away from the hurlers next year. He kicked an early belter of a point and later iced a fine 45 but he couldn’t do it all on his own, much as he tried.

By half-time, Crokes had put clear water between the sides. O’Leary and Looney were doing most of the damage but Doolan and Chris Brady chipped as well. Only a fine Paudie Hurley save from Fionn Fitzgerald a minute before the break saved Castlehaven from a complete undressing. As it was, Looney hoisted an effortless 45 and at half-time it was 0-11 to 0-4.

Any notions of a turnaround after the break were put to bed when Castlehaven midfielder Seán Dineen saw a straight red for a neck-high tackle on Cooper five minutes in. From that point on, it was a matter of playing out time.

Looney enjoyed himself for the rest of the game, ending it with seven points – all but that first-half 45 from play. The best that could be said for the Cork champions was that they drew the second-half.

So Crokes go on, their dance card full right up to Christmas. Next Sunday they have the east Kerry final, the Sunday after takes them to London and an All-Ireland quarter-final against Tír Chonaill Gaels.

Assuming they jump that hurdle, spring will tell its tale.

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