When Kilmacud Crokes last lost a match in the Dublin SFC, to Ballymun Kickhams all of 16 games ago in 2020, it prompted what boss Robbie Brennan described as a ‘rethink’ within the club.
Even with the outrageously talented Shane Walsh and Paul Mannion in attack, they’re a more cautious outfit these days and turned in a typically businesslike performance to overcome old foes Ballymun at Parnell Park on Saturday.
Crokes, cut open for 1-18 in that encounter three years ago, won this rematch by 0-14 to 0-10 and restricted the 2020 champions to just four points from open play. They didn’t give Ballymun a sniff of a goal chance either and, taking the campaign as a whole, have effectively cruised through to the last four of the Dublin SFC.
They will be joined in Sunday evening’s open draw for the last four by the other team with four consecutive wins in this year’s championship, Ballyboden St Enda’s.
The 2016 All-Ireland winners were comfortable 1-19 to 0-11 winners against a Castleknock side that struggled at Parnell Park despite the presence of county star Ciarán Kilkenny.
Armchair viewers expecting fireworks in the earlier televised clash of Crokes and Ballymun were largely disappointed.
Ballymun were without All-Ireland winning captain James McCarthy due to injury and while he performed maor uisce duties, his on-field ability was badly missed.
Paddy Small clipped a couple of early scores to put ‘Mun into a 0-3 to 0-2 lead but when Crokes kicked five points in a row between the 16th and 29th minutes, they assumed pole position and didn’t move from there.
Cian O’Connor wore number five for Crokes but excelled on the right wing, sniping three points overall and helping them to lead by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time.
Walsh finished with five points for Crokes, as well as a bloodied nose, while Mannion sniped three and got through a ton of good defensive work.
That’s how Crokes roll these days, silk and steel in equal measure and Ballymun only have themselves to blame.
“We did reference that game in 2020 during the week,” acknowledged Crokes manager Brennan. “Off the back of that defeat, we rejigged and reshuffled the way we set ourselves up and I was really curious to see would it work, meeting them again, and it was pleasing to see that it did, at times anyway.”
Ballyboden, who flew through Group One, were more comfortable in their quarter-final and built on a 0-9 to 0-5 half-time lead to run out 11-point victors.
Brothers Colm and Ryan Basquel blasted 1-8 between them for ‘Boden with Ryan scoring the 49th minute goal from the penalty spot after a foot block on Ross McGarry’s initial shot.