Shane Walsh brilliance helps Kilmacud Crokes retain Leinster title

Dublin champions had enough quality and experience to secure three-in-a-row

Leinster SFC final: Kilmacud Crokes 1-14 Naas 0-10

Of the now record-equalling Leinster club football titles won by Kilmacud Crokes, none have ended as memorably as this. A standing ovation perfectly deserving of Saturday afternoon’s curtain-closing act.

Having survived the fiercely competitive onslaught by Naas in the final 10 minutes, pressing four points clear, Kilmacud were safe, the three minutes of added time elapsed. Just enough time left for Shane Walsh to combine his talent and genius in equal measure in a three-quarter length run of the Croke Park field.

When a punched turnover landed in his path, Walsh first dribbled the ball away from the Naas defenders, then chipped it up into his hands, held off a trio of chasers, before deftly finishing into the empty net – Naas having thrown everyone forward.


Walsh finished with 1-8, the Galway player instrumental in other ways as Kilmacud eventually wore down that stubborn resistance of Naas, losing to the three-time Dublin champions for a third successive year, including the 2021 final.

Kilmacud remain on track to defend their All-Ireland title in the new year, this a first three-in-a-row in Leinster, and their seventh in all, to equal the joint-record holders of Leinster crowns, fellow Dublin club St Vincent’s and Portlaoise.

“Incredible talent, and a great goal” manager Robbie Brennan said of Walsh’s last act. “To chip it up like that, into his paw, and off he went. And delighted for him. And sure he nearly always scores eight or nine points in Croke Park, but works really hard for it too.

“Overall though, I have to say Naas looked to have a little bit more energy than on the day, so delighted to have great through it. But I felt we kept working hard too, and once you do that you always have a chance.”

It also sets them up with their All-Ireland semi-final date against the winners of the next Sunday’s Glen-Scotstown Ulster final, on January 7th. Brennan has faced into navigating the holiday season before and won’t be laying down any strict laws about how his players face into it too.

“We’ll take a few days off, then we have a league final against Ballyboden, next Tuesday. That will bring us into Christmas, and we’re easy enough, lads can come and go as they want, within reason. But January 7th is not that far away. We know whoever comes out of Ulster are always very good, so we certainly won’t be looking anywhere beyond that.”

Naas never gave up hope of winning a first provincial title, getting it back to a one-point game with 10 minutes to go, 0-11 to 0-10, only for their accuracy in front of goal to ultimately let them down; three shots landed short, another two hit the upright, and a couple of gilded goal chances were also missed.

On that note Naas manager Joe Murphy had few complaints: “We certainly felt it was there to be won, maybe that little lack of experience and clinical finishing cost us,” he said.

“When we played them last year, they killed us with goals and turnovers, whereas this year they killed us with points, when we dropped shots short, or hit them off the post. We looked after our possession fairly well, they just took their chances, simple as that, they’ve a couple of top forwards, as you know.

“But we’re still a very young team, and they’re not finished yet. Our six starting forwards are under 23, and three of the backs are under 23, so they’re still learning their trade, still have some big years ahead of them. There’s fierce resolve and ambition in them.

“But we never got parity today, were never in a position to put them under pressure, we seemed to be chasing a lot. And against a team of that experience, that can kill it at times, and protect their lead very well.”

Kilmacud certainly needed to call on all that experience, particularly in the second half, with Naas enjoying the greater possession. Shane Horan and Rory O’Carroll also contributed key scores at times, but the seven-point margin of victory flattering Kilmacud.

Alex Beirne and Darragh Kirwan were excellent for Naas, a Kirwan free getting it back to a one-point game early in the second half.

Naas started with desire and intent of their own, Dermot Hanafin firing over the first score after three minutes. Kilmacud took a while to settle, a free by Walsh their first score after six minutes.

Horan, who started in place of Anthony Quinn, was in fine form, putting Kilmacud in front for the first time, before Beirne promptly levelled it up again. Then Kilmacud stepped up another gear, going 0-8 to 0-5 clear when Horan struck again.

Dara Mullin scored point number nine for Kilmacud, which left it 0-9 to 0-7 at the interval. In the end then another disappointing afternoon for Naas, who also finished with 14 men after Beirne received a second yellow card in injury time.

KILMACUD CROKES: D Higgins; R O’Carroll (0-1); T Clancy, D O’Brien; S Horan (0-2), A McGowan, M O’Leary, B Sheehy, C Dias (0-1); C O’Connor, S Cunningham (capt), H Kenny; P Mannion (0-1, a free), D Mullin (0-1), S Walsh (1-8, five frees).

Subs: D Murphy for Kenny (half-time), C Pearson for Mullin (37 mins), L Ward for Cunningham, D Dempsey for O’Connor (both 50 mins), J Murphy for Dias (58 mins).

NAAS: L Mullins; C Daly, B Byrne, M Maguire; P McDermott, E Doyle (capt), E Prizeman; P McDermott (0-1), J Burke; A Beirne (0-4, one free), S Hahafin, J McKevitt; C McCarthy, D Hanafin (0-1), D Kirwan (0-4, two frees).

Subs: C Cummins for McDermott, T Browne for Prizeman (both 50 mins), N Aherne for D Hanafin (58 mins), S Cullen for McKevitt (60 mins)

Referee: David Hickey (Carlow)

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics