Valiant Cratloe push Dr Crokes all the way in exciting Munster club final
Kerry giants snatch two late points to earn a somewhat fortunate victory
Colm Cooper: was sent off late in yesterday’s AIB Munster club football final as Dr Crokes eventually scrambled a one-point win over Cratloe. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Dr Crokes 0-13 Cratloe 0-12
There are only so many ways of dressing up the gallant loser before he looks kitsch. We have to stop handing out stripes to the bold and the brave.
Yet what Cratloe deserve here is more than the consolation salute. Coming close to the biggest shock in Munster club football history doesn’t win any prizes but it has earned them and all of Clare football a weightier reputation. Given the year they’ve also had in hurling that might just be good enough for now.
Not many teams come close to beating Dr Crokes, no matter what the level, and yet very close to the end here, Cratloe were a point ahead – at which stage Dr Crokes had also lost a certain Colm “Gooch” Cooper to a second yellow card.
It was an extremely exciting position for the first-time Clare champions, given they trailed the Killarney giants – 1/33 on to claim a third successive Munster club football title – by seven points at half-time, while looking dangerously outclassed.
Yet these Cratloe men are made of hardy stuff. Spurred on by All-Ireland hurling winners Podge Collins, Conor McGrath and Fergal Lynch, topped off with some amazing points by fellow hurling specialist Cathal McInerney, they outscored Dr Crokes nine points to one as the second half progressed, so that, with four minutes of normal time remaining, they led 0-12 to 0-11.
Four minutes before that, Cooper was sent-off, his overly enthusiastic shoulder on McGrath earning him a second yellow card. Cooper was brilliant in flashes early on, but Cratloe weren’t in the game at that stage, going 26 minutes of the first half without a score.
So, having flirted with the majestic hammering, Cratloe were on the verge of a sensational victory, if only they could hold on. Instead, having been given the wake-up call from hell, Dr Crokes finished marginally stronger. First, Daithí Casey tapped over a free which Cratloe, under mounting pressure, coughed up . Then, with 30 seconds of injury time remaining, Ambrose Donovan laid off to Johnny Buckley, who despite playing with a dead leg for much of the second half, deftly struck between the posts.
“I did. I honestly thought we had it,” said Cratloe manager Colm Collins.
“But credit to Dr Crokes. They’re such a great team, kicked a pressure score to go ahead again. But it was looking good there for a while. And I knew they’d finish strong because they are exceptionally fit. It just wasn’t to be. A little bit more composure maybe, when the fat was in the fire, and we could have won.”
Cratloe would have been deserving winners on the basis of desire, dedication, and the unwavering pursuit of glory.
“Yeah, at one stage it looked as if the Gods weren’t with us,” said Vince Casey, the Dr Crokes joint manager. “Thankfully we got those last couple of points to see us through to the All-Ireland semi-final, and that’s all that matters. But Cratloe are a very good side.
“Their fitness is phenomenal, and they carried the ball at us from very deep. We tackled immensely in the first half, but then they picked up all the breaks in the second half. And we seemed to lack a bit of energy in the second half.
“But we were nervy as well. There was a lot of pressure coming in here, dealing with unbelievable favouritism. That may have seeped in, but take nothing from the opposition. They certainly made it very, very hard for us.”
Dr Crokes needed every ounce of their character in the end, especially after losing Cooper and with McInerney firing over points from all angles. Wearing the number 30 shirt – after bloodying his nose early in the second half – McInernery hit three in a row in the closing stages, before Sean Collins hit the equaliser, on 52 minutes.
McInerney’s free then edged them in front, and had they not given themselves such a high mountain to climb they might well have got to the top first.
DR CROKES (KERRY): D Moloney; J Payne, L Quinn, K Ward; E Brosnan, F Fitzgerald (0-1), M Moloney; A Donovan (capt), J Buckley (0-1); A O’Sullivan (0-2), D Casey (0-2, one free), B Looney (0-2); K O’Leary (0-1), C Cooper (0-4, one free), G O’Shea. Subs: M Burns for O’Shea (46 mins), D O’Leary for Ward (48 mins), S Doolin for Quinn (55 mins).
CRATLOE (CLARE): P DeLoughrey; S Chaplin (0-1), B Duggan, D Ryan; M Murphy (capt), M Hawes, E Boyce (0-1, a free); F Lynch (0-1), C Duggan; C Ryan, L Markham (0-1), P Collins; S Collins (0-1), C McInerney (0-5, two frees), C McGrath (0-2).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).