Paul Mannion continues good form as Crokes see off Wolfe Tones

Kilmacud Crokes now to meet Portarlington in Leinster semi-final at Croke Park

Kilmacud Crokes’ Paul Mannion is chased by Daniel O’Neill of Wolfe Tones. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

Kilmacud Crokes’ Paul Mannion is chased by Daniel O’Neill of Wolfe Tones. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

 

Kilmacud Crokes 1-13 Wolfe Tones 1-9

Paul Mannion continued his exceptional club season, as Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes led more or less from gun to tape in this AIB Leinster club football quarter-final in Páirc Tailteann, Navan, on Sunday.

The former Dublin All-Star scored 0-6, five from play, and orchestrated his team’s attacks from centre forward. Afterwards his manager Robbie Brennan appeared to be about to explain how his key forward was sacrificing his scoring returns for the overall good of the attack.

“He’s been phenomenal all year for us. He’s probably not kicking - I don’t know what he kicked today? Six? Ok, I take it all back! He’s bringing others into the game as well and he’s great to have around the group. Dublin’s loss is our plus, I suppose.”

There was a phase when you felt that this might run away from Wolfe Tones. Just before the first water break, Kilmacud got a slightly fortuitous goal. Mannion - again - pinged a pass into Hugh Kenny and he put Ben Shovlin in on goal.

The latter’s shot was well saved by Cian Farnan but Shovlin managed to scramble the rebound into the net to leave the score 1-3 to 0-1. A couple more scores and there would have been no way back but Tones rallied impressively with 1-2 in the 10 minutes after the break.

Cian Ward, their veteran playmaker, showed some good movement to cut inside Crokes and lay on a goal for full forward Cian O’Neill. Pádraic Diamond added a second long-range point and suddenly the margin was down to a minimum, 1-2 to 1-3.

Mannion kicked a free to restore some order but the Meath champions, despite the unpromising precedent of the county’s club record against Dublin counterparts, were now right back in it.

Kilmacud didn’t panic and their familiar possession game continued to tick over and stretch the opposition from wing to wing but breaking through into scoring range wasn’t proving that easy, as Tones chased and harried tirelessly.

Brennan said that the tactic of going short was dictated by the Meath men’s strength in the air and ability to get on breaks.

“We thought we’d get ourselves a little bit of possession and try to work it up. It worked at times but they’re good around the breaks so we were under pressure.”

That was exemplified by Oisín Martin, a late call-up for Wolfe Tones, who ran himself ragged chasing and tackling.

Crokes though had the edge in class and nous. Mannion stepped the defence and pointed to stretch the lead to 1-17 to 1-3 whereas his former county comrade in arms Rory O’Carroll took a great catch from the kickout, played a 1-2 and hit Craig Dias with a scoring pass and Dias finished the job for 1-8.

The margin bobbled from three to five without looking like it would come under sustained pressure and the curtain began to descend when Cian Ward picked up a second yellow shortly into the final quarter. As a sanction for the two fouls, it was maybe draconian and certainly his manager Micheál McDermott thought so:

“It was harsh. Cian put in a good physically strong tackle and in my view the player went down extremely easily. I think there were other tackles the same way, but when you are on a yellow card it’s a dangerous territory, but we always pride ourselves on tackling hard and tackling fairly, and the referee just didn’t see it that way.”

Kilmacud were well able to exploit the man advantage, holding possession for sustained periods. Replacement Callum Pearson weaved a patch to goal but Farnan saved well. Mannion, in a rare lapse, took on a goal chance and blew it over the bar - his reaction telling the story rather than any rush to judgement.

Brennan said that they would all be looking forward to the provincial semi-finals, which are to be played this year in Croke Park in a fortnight. He was asked was the club still haunted by the shock final defeat by Mullinalaghta three years ago.

“Not really. There are 16 of that panel weren’t there in 2018. Half of them are gone. It’s a big turnover. For them it’s only a story as opposed to an experience.”

Next up are Laois champions Portarlington, who beat St Loman’s in their quarter-final.

Kilmacud Crokes: Conor Ferris (0-1, free); Michael Mullin, Rory O’Carroll, Andrew McGowan; Cian O’Connor, Dan O’Brien (0-1), Cillian O’Shea; Craig Dias (0-1), Ben Shovlin (1-0); Shane Horan, Paul Mannion (0-6, one free), Tom Fox (0-2, frees); Hugh Kenny, Shane Cunningham (capt; 0-1), Dara Mullin (0-1).

Subs: Ross McGowan for A McGowan (2 mins), Aidan Jones for Horan (41 mins), Callum Pearson for Kenny (45 mins), Conor Casey for Dias (48 mins), Conor Kinsella for Fox (55 mins).

Wolfe Tones: Cian Farnan; Shane Glynn (capt), Adam O’Neill, Brughach Ó Fionnagáin; Niall O’Reilly, Daniel O’Neill, Conor Sheppard; Pádraic Diamond (0-2), Alan Callaghan; Stephen Sheppard, Cian Ward (0-3, all frees), Oisín Martin; Thomas O’Reilly (0-2, one free), Cian O’Neill (1-0), Sarán Ó Fionnagáin (0-1, mark).

Subs: Fiachra Ward for Callaghan (48 mins), Caolán Ward for C O’Neill (49 mins), Tom Gavigan (0-1) for Martin (56 mins), Éanna O’Kelly-Lynch for N O’Reilly (57 mins)

Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)

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