Dr Crokes’ free-flowing forward line too slick for Mullinalaghta
Leinster champions’ half-back Shane Mulligan proud of his side’s improbably journey
Mullinalaghta’s Aidan McElligott challenges David O’Leary of Dr Crokes in Thurles. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dr Crokes (Kerry) 0-18 Mullinalaghta (Longford) 2-7
Fifteen points from play from an on-song forward line ensured it will be a blueblood All-Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day, the last two winners of the competition facing off for glory.
However, Dr Crokes still have work to do if they’re to overcome Galway champions Corofin next month, according to selector Niall O’Callaghan.
“We’re happy enough with the players we have, a couple of the boys didn’t play too well today and they need to pick up their game for Croke Park, I mean you’re going to be exposed totally up there on St Patrick’s Day if you don’t show up and if we play some of the stuff we played today, so we know that, we’re not going to be complacent,” he said.
Some of the Kerry county champions’ attack play was a joy to witness, their ball-winning and link-work and passing creating the space to allow Tony Brosnan to rack up six points, Kieran O’Leary to get four from play and the stylish David Shaw to knock over three.
In defence, however, it wasn’t always so smooth as they conceded a first half penalty - converted excellently by Mullinalaghta’s Gary Rogers in the sixth minute - and also a soft second goal scored by Jayson Matthews.
“There’s always work to do,” selector O’Callaghan pointed out. “They’re [Mullinalaghta] a good team, they’re in an All-Ireland semi-final, they’re always going to cause you trouble.”
When David McGivney sent over a free in the 23rd minute, the Longford champions - whose catchment area takes in a total of 11 townlands - actually led Dr Crokes by three points, but the closing minutes of the first half had the favourites scoring five points out of six and they followed up with five-in-a-row in the space of the opening 10 minutes of the second period.
Influential midfielder Johnny Buckley was sent off in the 21st minute after an incident from the Dr Crokes kick-out following the second goal, but according to O’Callaghan, Buckley and his marker “were pushing each other” and “there was no striking offence as far as we’re concerned”. They’re hopeful video footage will allow a successful appeal to free up Buckley for the final.
The Leinster champions’ half-back Shane Mulligan said they had “no qualms” with the result. “Very proud of the lads and the way they hung in there and performed to the end, but disappointed that the journey ends here,” he said, before reflecting on the recent past for a club which, a few years ago, just wanted to win the Longford championship.
“It’s been an amazing three years. We’ve been in a bubble for the last three years, we’ve never experienced success like this. To win a county final was all we ever wanted to do and then to put three of them back-to-back and then to go on a journey like this and finish off in Semple Stadium in the month of February against the Kerry champions and against some iconic players like that: a couple of years ago, a couple of months ago, we’d have took both hands off you if you’d offered it.”
DR CROKES: S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O’Leary, G White, S Doolan; J Buckley, D Casey (0-2, one free); M Burns (0-1), G O’Shea (0-1), B Looney (0-1); D Shaw (0-3), K O’Leary (0-4), T Brosnan (0-6, two frees).
Subs: M Potts for Doolan (34 mins), A O’Sullivan for D O’Leary (49), C Cooper for G O’Shea (50), E Brosnan for M Burns (57), J Kiely for Brosnan (60).
MULLINALAGHTA: P Rogers; S Cadam, P Fox, C Brady; F Mulligan, S Mulligan, D McElligott (0-1); D McGivney (0-5, four frees), J Keegan; G Rogers (1-0, penalty), J McGivney, B Fox (0-1); J Matthews (1-0), R Brady, A McElligott.
Subs: M Cunningham for F Mulligan (27 mins), C McElligott for B Fox (57).
Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)