Dr Crokes (Kerry) 1-21 St Joseph’s Miltown (Clare) 2-9
Munster masters Dr Crokes comfortably kept apprentices St Joseph’s Miltown at arm’s length to complete a fifth Munster title this decade in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday afternoon.
In what was their seventh final appearance in nine years, the vast experience of the Killarney side was decisive in halting the challenge of Clare’s provincial final debutants, highlighted by their 10 different scorers over the hour.
With newcomers Miltown Malbay craving a good start to put it up to the Kerry kingpins, they would be left chasing the game in vain after the Crokes blazed into a nine point advantage inside the opening 12 minutes.
Despite the inevitability of the result long before the final whistle, Dr Crokes selector Vince Casey was still extremely appreciative of the club’s first provincial crown since 2016: “It means a huge amount, I mean to win five out of seven finals since 2010 is a phenomenal achievement.
“This bunch of players have shown an incredible commitment and desire to come back any time they have faced adversity in that period. After last year’s final defeat to Nemo [RANGERS], it would have been easy for some guys to hang up their boots but not this group so it’s great to come back and win the title today.
“Winning Munster is never easy, I think it’s our eighth one and it’s great from a club point of view to narrow the gap a bit to Nemo so today has just been phenomenal and we’ll enjoy it.”
That determination was abundantly clear from the outset as David Shaw's third minute goal initiated a 1-6 unanswered rally that saw Gavin O'Shea, Daithi Casey, goalkeeper Shane Murphy, Tony Brosnan and Kieran O'Leary all get in on the scoring action to stop the Clare champions in their tracks.
St Joseph’s Miltown did finally settle with an Oisin Looney goal entering the second quarter to lower the arrears to five but despite that welcome boost, the Crokes always seemed able to respond at the other end to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Kevin Keavey opened the west Clare side's account in the 13th minute but even with Looney's goal six minutes later, Dr Crokes remained in full control of their own destiny. Points from Casey, Brian Looney and Brosnan equalled like scores from Clare seniors Eoin Cleary and Kieran Malone to take a 1-10 to 1-4 lead into the dressing rooms.
Replicating their early first half blitz, the Kerry champions kicked four of the first five points of the new half through Brosnan, Micheál Burns, Casey and a goal opportunity for Looney that just cleared the crossbar on their way to restoring a nine point cushion by the 38th minute at 1-15 to 1-5.
Led superbly by midfielder Conor Cleary, Miltown Malbay never lowered their heads but on three occasions over the next 10 minutes, points from his twin brother Eoin, Enda O'Gorman and Darragh McDonagh were matched by Brosnan, O'Leary and Johnny Buckley before Dr Crokes turned the screw in the final quarter.
Four of the next five points - two from Brosnan - would carve out Crokes’ biggest lead (1-21 to 1-9) as the game drifted over the hour mark.
So while the Clare champions did raid for a consolation goal through Darragh McDonagh, by that stage the Kerry champions were already thinking ahead to an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with either St Columba’s Mullinalaghta (Longford) or Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) in the New Year.
Dr Crokes: S Murphy (0-1, '45); J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O'Leary, G White, S Doolan; J Buckley (0-1), D Casey (0-3, 2f); M Burns (0-2), G O'Shea (0-1), B Looney (0-2); T Brosnan (0-7, 0-5 frees), K O'Leary (0-2), D Shaw (1-1).
Subs: M Potts for Doolan (39 mins), C Cooper for Looney (44’), A O’Sullivan for Moloney (48’), J Kiely (0-1) for Shaw (49’), D Naughton for D O’Leary (55’), B Fitzgerald for Burns (58’).
St Joseph's Miltown: S O'Brien; E O'Gorman (0-1), Gordon Kelly, E O'Brien; C Hehir, A McGuane, J O'Connor; O Looney (1-0), C Cleary; K Keavey (0-1), B Curtin, K Malone (0-2); E Cleary (0-3, 0-2 frees), D McDonagh (1-2), C Murray.
Subs: M Murray for Hehir (28’), E Curtin for Keavey (HT), Graham Kelly for O’Connor (43’), S Malone for B Curtin (49’), E Reidy for McGuane (55’), G Malone for C. Murray (59’).
Referee: Alan Kissane (Waterford)