Kilmacud Crokes call for reinforcements to see off Padraig Pearses

Dublin side’s strength in depth shows as they beat Connacht champions in fraught semi

Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) 1-11 Padraig Pearses (Roscommon) 0-8

Without their six-time All-Ireland winning talisman - Paul Mannion stood next to manager Robbie Brennan for most of Saturday’s Kingspan Breffni encounter - it was tempting to almost feel sorry for Kilmacud Crokes.

Mannion won’t be back for the AIB All-Ireland club final either following the knee procedure he underwent the day before the Leinster final though this is a team that doesn’t need any pity.

For all of Mannion’s undoubted class, Crokes have vast reserves, a point that was underlined yet again in the closing minutes in Cavan as Padraig Pearses hovered within touching distance of their first ever final place.


Crokes led by just a point, 1-6 to 0-8, after the teams had traded scores virtually tit-for-tat throughout the first 20 minutes of the second-half.

From there, the 1995 and 2009 All-Ireland winners turned on the afterburners with five points in a row, four of those coming from substitutes Cian O’Connor, Conor Casey and Anthony Quinn.

Throw in the fact that three of their starting forwards who also scored - Shane Horan, Callum Pearson and Dara Mullin - have played competitive senior inter-county football and it becomes pretty clear that they can live without Mannion.

Two more former Dublin players, goalscorer Craig Dias and Man of the Match Rory O’Carroll, were terrific too on another landmark evening for the Stillorgan outfit.

“No, he’s not going to be back,” said Crokes manager Brennan of Mannion’s status for the February 12th final. “I’d say it’ll probably be April before Paul is back. We’ve known that for a couple of weeks now so we’ve been planning without him.

“We’ve asked the others to step up. Having Paul is probably similar to having a comfort blanket or something, when he’s there you’re always waiting for something to happen and when that’s snatched away and you don’t have it, everyone just has to realise that and to step up. Thankfully again some guys came in off the bench and did that, and others throughout the 60 minutes as well.”

A seventh minute goal from Dias - Hugh Kenny and Horan were heavily involved in the buildup - ultimately separated the teams at half-time. Crokes led 1-3 and 0-3 but it was a tight game and a tough watch full of simmering tension which boiled over when players collided in the tunnel on their way off.

Pearses appeared to take most energy from the kerfuffle as they edged the third quarter, drawing within a point of Crokes a number of times. Substitutes have bailed Crokes out on several occasions throughout the campaign and particularly O’Connor who struck the winning goals in both the county and Leinster final wins.

This time, with just 15 minutes or so to work his magic, he supplied two important points as Crokes reeled off five points without reply from the 51st minute to seal a flattering six-point win.

The Connacht champions, who had a strong performer in Niall Daly, only got to see glimpses of Paul Carey’s brilliance in attack as O’Carroll marshalled an excellent Crokes defensive display.

Brennan admitted they’ve worked hard on learning how to close out games since their infamous Leinster final defeat to Mullinalaghta in late 2018.

“It didn’t really make a difference who we lost to, it was that we were leading that game and couldn’t close it out,” said Brennan of the 2018 watershed.

Pearses manager Pat Flanagan acknowledged that his team had no defence against the heavy artillery which Crokes unloaded from the bench.

“It made a big difference for them,” said Flanagan. “They’ve got a big squad and when they put pressure on us in the last 10 or 15 minutes with fresh legs we struggled to hold onto them.”

Kilmacud Crokes: C Ferris; M Mullin, R McGowan, D O'Brien; C O'Shea, R O'Carroll, A McGowan; B Shovlin, C Dias (1-1); T Fox (0-1, one free), H Kenny, S Horan (0-2); C Pearson (0-1), D Mullin (0-2), S Cunningham. Subs: C Casey (0-1) for Shovlin (47 mins), C O'Connor (0-2) for Kenny (47 mins), A Jones for Pearson (51), A Quinn (0-1) for Fox (57 mins), T Clancy for Horan (61).

Padraig Pearses: P Whelan; C Keogh, M Richardson, A Butler; C Lohan, R Daly, D Murray; N Daly (0-2), C Daly; S Carty, N Carty, L Daly; C Payne, H Darcy (0-2, one free), P Carey (0-3, two frees). Subs: T Butler (0-1) for S Carty (39 mins), E Kelly for Lohan (54 mins), J Tumulty for L Daly (59 mins), E Colleran for N Carty (60 mins), S Mulvey for Richardson (63).

Referee: P Faloon (Down).