Gavin O’Shea of Dr Crokes in action against Patrick Fox, left, and Michael Cunningham of Mullinalaghta St Columba's during the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Final at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary.
Gavin O’Shea of Dr Crokes in action against Patrick Fox, left, and Michael Cunningham of Mullinalaghta St Columba's during the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Final at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. 

14-man Crokes too good for Mullinalaghta

AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final


By John Harrington at Semple Stadium

Dr. Crokes showed there’s no substitute for class as they swept aside Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s in today’s AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final.

Despite being reduced to 14 men by the 20th minute dismissal of Johnny Buckley, they had too much nous and skill for the Longford and Leinster champions.

If you were struggling to get your head around the fact that Colm Cooper can’t force his way into this Dr. Crokes forward line, then this match would have illuminated you.

All six of the Crokes forwards scored, and their inside line of David Shaw, Kieran O’Leary, and Tony Brosnan was particularly lethal with a combined haul of 11 points from play.

Mullinalaghta simply didn’t have the same calibre of finishers in their side, and they also did themselves no favours in some tactical aspects of the game.

It certainly made no sense for them to almost exclusively go long with their own kick-outs because Dr Crokes were absolutely dominant under the dropping ball in the middle third.

The Longford champions would have been better advised to make the most of their numerical advantage by going short with their kick-outs and working their way up the field, because when they did manage to hold onto possession for any significant periods of time they exposed some frailties in the Dr. Crokes defence.

In fact, for much of the first-half their supporters must have thought another chapter might be penned in their fairytale of a season.

David McGivney opened the scoring for the Longford side and, when Donal McElligott was hauled down in the square five minutes later, Mullinalaghta were awarded a penalty that Gary Rogers drove hard and low to the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Dr. Crokes wrested back the initiative by kicking four points in a row, but Mullinalaghta’s boisterous supporters were jumping for joy again when their team struck for a second-goal.

Rian Brady’s shot for a point looked like it was drifting wide but James McGivney did brilliantly to keep it in play and fire off a shot that was saved by Shane Murphy, but only into the path of Jayson Matthews who palmed it to the back of the net.

Moments later Dr. Crokes midfielder Johnny Buckley was red-carded for an off the ball incident and when McGivney then put Mullinalaghta 2-2 to 0-5 ahead, it looked like we might have an almighty shock on our hands.

The Kerry and Munster champions were briefly flustered, but eventually the poise shown by forwards like Shaw, O’Leary and Brosnan spread throughout their team as the points started flowing again.

Shaw brought the curtain down on the first-half with his second classy point from play to leave Dr. Crokes leading by 0-11 to 2-3 at the break, and very much back in control of the contest.

The match looked done and dusted when the Kerry club kicked the first five points of the second-half, but Mullinalaghta rallied.

Points from David McGivney (two frees) and Brendan Fox reduced the gap to just 4 points, and then they very nearly scored a goal that might have really rattled Crokes.

Shane Mulligan boomed in a high ball that Aidan McElligott managed to palm goalwards, but Dr. Crokes Keeper Shane Murphy pulled off a great save and then got the ball out of the danger-zone.

Dr. Crokes were never really troubled thereafter, and Kieran O’Leary and Micheal Burns hammered two more nails in Mullinalaghta’s coffin in the closing minutes.

The Longford club from half a parish deserve great praise for making it this far considering the just how shallow their playing resources are.

Their and players mingled together on the pitch long after the final whistle blew as they reflected on what’s been a fantastic adventure for them all.

They’ll surely agree that the better team won today, and when you look at the quality that both Dr. Crokes and defending champions Corofin displayed in their respective semi-final victories, the Final itself should be really something to savour.

Scorers for Dr Crokes: Tony Brosnan 0-6 (2f), Kieran O’Leary 0-4, David Shaw 0-3, Daithi Casey 0-2 (1f), Micheál Burns 0-1, Gavin O’Shea 0-1, Brian Looney 0-1

Scorers for Mullinalaghta St Columba’s: David McGivney 0-5 (4f), Jayson Matthews 1-0, Gary Rogers 1-0 (pen), Brendan Fox 0-1, Dónal McElligott 0-1.

DR CROKES: Shane Murphy; John Payne, Michael Moloney, Fionn Fitzgerald; David O’Leary, Gavin White, Shane Doolan; Johnny Buckley, Daithi Casey; Micheal Burns, Gavin O’Shea, Brian Looney; David Shaw, Kieran O’Leary, Tony Brosnan. Subs: Micheál Potts for Shane Doolan (35), Alan O’Sullivan for David O’Leary (50), Colm Cooper for Gavin O’Shea (50), Eoin Brosnan for Micheál Burns (58), Jordan Kiely for Tony Brosnan (60)

MULLINALAGHTA ST COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Simon Cadam, Patrick Fox, Conan Brady; Francis Mulligan, Shane Mulligan, Donal McElligott; David McGivney, John Keegan; Gary Rogers, James McGivney, Brendan Fox; Jayson Matthews, Rian Brady, Aidan McElligott. Subs: Michael Cunningham for Francis Mulligan (27), Conor McElligott for Brendan Fox (58)

Ref: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)