Rory O'Carroll was in superb form for Kilmacud Crokes in Cavan this evening.
Rory O'Carroll was in superb form for Kilmacud Crokes in Cavan this evening.

AIB Club SFC: Kilmacud finish strongly to set up Kilcoo clash

AIB All-Ireland senior club football semi-final


Kevin Egan at Kingspan Breffni Park.

After the first eight or nine rounds of what could only be described as a heavyweight bout between the champions of Leinster and Connacht this evening, Kilmacud Crokes were ahead by the bare minimum and under pressure as a barrage of blows rained in from the men from the west.

A fragmented and at times fractious first half had given way to a much more intense and enjoyable affair once Paul Faloon threw in the ball a second time, and it looked like Pearses were well-poised to upset the 1995 and 2009 All-Ireland club champions in what was a first ever appearance at this stage of the AIB All-Ireland club championships for the South Roscommon club.

A first half goal from Craig Dias gave the Dublin side the platform to keep Pearses just at arm’s length for long stretches of the game, but on several occasions, Pat Flanagan’s side rallied well to get within a single point in the second half. They couldn’t quite get level however, and when Robbie Brennan looked for impact from his replacements, they answered the call in style.

The contest changed completely when Conor Casey, Cian O’Connor and Andrew Quinn came off the bench to make a decisive contribution to the Kilmacud side, and Pearses simply had no answer to their opponents in the closing stages.

A point from Niall Daly in the opening minute, greeted by a raucous roar from the Pearses-dominated crowd, suggested that a good evening might be in store for the Roscommon and Connacht champions, but that pocket of space for the county star proved to be a rare opening at the heart of a Kilmacud defence that held firm, anchored by man of the match Rory O’Carroll.

The game’s crucial score arrived after eight minutes when quick hands from Hugh Kenny and Shane Horan set up Craig Dias, and the big midfielder’s footwork was no less slick as he slipped the ball under Paul Whelan for the game’s first and only goal.

Pearses replied with a Paul Carey free but in general, space at either end of the ground was impossible to find and the contest developed into a war of attrition, with huge numbers committing to the tackle and both sides making sure that quick counter attacks out of defence were snuffed out before they got started.

Points from Dara Mullen and Callum Pearson either side of a Tom Fox free moved Kilmacud 1-3 to 0-2 ahead before half-time, but a Paul Carey free narrowed the gap and a lively third quarter saw the gap trimmed to a single point on several occasions. Niall Daly, Paul Carey and Tom Butler all struck inspirational scores for the men in red, but every time they got within one, it seemed like Kilmacud were able to come up with a reply. Shane Horan was a particular thorn in the side of Pat Flanagan’s men, the former Offaly player hitting the target with two well-taken scores.  

Kilmacud’s final decisive move was the introduction of substitutes Conor Casey and Cian O’Connor in one switch, and both players had a decisive impact on the game in the final quarter. O’Connor kicked two points and added a real injection of pace to the Kilmacud attack, while Casey claimed two kickouts and also tagged on a late point to round off a strong finish for the Dublin champions, who now advance to meet Kilcoo in what should be a fascinating contest in the All-Ireland final in a fortnight.  

Scorers for Kilmacud Crokes: Craig Dias 1-1, Dara Mullen, Shane Horan, Cian O’Connor 0-2 each, Tom Fox (f), Callum Pearson, Conor Casey, Anthony Quinn 0-1 each.

Scorers for Pádraig Pearses: Paul Carey 0-3 (0-2f), Niall Daly, Hubert Darcy (0-1f) 0-2 each, Tom Butler 0-1.

Kilmacud Crokes: Conor Ferris; Michael Mullen, Ross McGowan, Dan O’Brien; Cillian O’Shea, Rory O’Carroll, Andrew McGowan; Ben Shovlin, Craig Dias; Tom Fox, Hugh Kenny, Shane Horan; Callum Pearson, Dara Mullen, Shane Cunningham.

Subs: Conor Casey for Shovlin (46), Cian O’Connor for Kenny (46), Aidan Jones for Pearson (51), Anthony Quinn for Fox (57), Theo Clancy for Horan (60+1).

Pádraig Pearses: Paul Whelan; Caelim Keogh, Mark Richardson, Anthony Butler; Conor Lohan, Ronan Daly, David Murray; Niall Daly, Conor Daly; Shane Carty, Niall Carty, Lorcán Daly; Conor Payne, Hubert Darcy, Paul Carey. 

Subs: Tom Butler for S Carty (38), Emmett Kelly for Lohan (53), Jack Tumulty for L Daly (59), Eoin Colleran for Carty (60), Shane Mulvey for Richardson (60+3).

Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)