AIB Leinster Club SFC: Crokes cruise to victory
AIB Leinster Club SFC semi-final
Kilmacud Crokes 1-12 Portarlington 0-4
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
A year after suffering an AIB Leinster club SFC semi-final scare against Portarlington, Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes had no such problems in this evening's rematch.
A commanding Croke Park display, which included an early goal from Andrew McGowan, secured the Stillorgan side a provincial final clash with The Downs of Westmeath on December 4 back at Croke Park.
Crokes trailed by four points at half-time when they met the Laois champions at the same stage last season and needed a late Paul Mannion inspired rally to get over the line on that occasion.
They cruised to victory this time, leading virtually from gun to tape and could afford to take off Galway star Shane Walsh, goalscorer McGowan and Man of the Match Craig Dias well before full-time.
There was no Mannion due to an ankle injury but it didn't prevent Crokes from marching confidently through to the final and they are now just 60 minutes from a first ever back to back of provincial titles.
They will hope that their defence is as impressive again next month with Portarlington held to 0-4 overall and their first score from open play didn't arrive until the 47th minute.
Manager Robbie Brennan made a series of changes to his Crokes lineup before throw-in, handing starts to Aidan Jones along with former inter-county duo Shane Horan and Cian O'Connor.
The switches worked out nicely because while an utterly professional looking Crokes didn't exactly shoot the lights out, they were typically efficient and hit the interval with a commanding 1-5 to 0-2 lead.
Aside from the three goals they scored against both Templeogue Synge Street in the Dublin championship, and Naas last time out, that's pretty much how experienced Crokes have been going about their business all season, dominating the possession stakes and winning most of their games with relatively low tallies.
They paid Portarlington full respect because aside from last year's provincial meeting, they were also mindful of the 3-19 that Martin Murphy's side put on the board against Palatine in the recent provincial quarter-finals, a result that followed Port's 1-10 to 0-10 Round 1 win over Wexford's Castletown.
The Crokes backs held Portarlington scoreless from play for the entire first-half, free-taker Colm Murphy sniping fifth and 24th minute scores from placed balls.
Crokes got the perfect start when McGowan, part of the Dublin squad last season, netted in the seventh minute, putting them into a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Walsh then added a point before playing a precise pass to captain Shane Cunningham who claimed the Mark and converted. Dara Mullin, twice, and Cunningham again then scored to leave the Glenalbyn side 1-5 to 0-1 ahead. Already it looked ominous for the underdogs who needed an injection of inspiration, and quickly as they hit the interval trailing by six points.
Crokes lost Jones for 10 minutes following a black card late in the first-half, for a drag down on Rioghan Murphy, so a window of opportunity presented itself for Portarlington but they couldn't take advantage and conceded two more points during that sin-bin period.
Adam Ryan eventually hit Portarlington's first point from play early in the final quarter and the attacker added a second in the 56th minute. But that was it for Port' who were powerless to prevent Crokes finishing with gusto, O'Connor, Paraic Purcell and dual player Brian Sheehy all stroking over late scores to gloss the scoreline.
Scorers for Kilmacud Crokes: Andrew McGowan 1-0, Shane Walsh 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1m), Dara Mullin 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1 mark), Shane Cunningham 0-2 (0-1m), Paraic Purcell 0-2, Cian O'Connor 0-1, Brian Sheehy 0-1.
Scorers for Portarlington: Colm Murphy 0-2 (0-2f), Adam Ryan 0-2.
Kilmacud Crokes: Conor Ferris; Micheal Mullin, Theo Clancy, Dan O'Brien; Aidan Jones, Rory O'Carroll, Andrew McGowan; Craig Dias, Ben Shovlin; Shane Horan, Shane Cunningham, Cian O'Connor; Hugh Kenny, Dara Mullin, Shane Walsh.
Subs: Tom Fox for Walsh 44, Paraic Purcell for Horan 46, Cillian O'Shea for Cunningham 51, Jeff Kenny for McGowan 56, Brian Sheehy for Dias 58.
Portarlington: Scott Osbourne; Cathal Bennett, Diarmuid Bennett, Alex Mohan; Stuart Mulpeter, Robbie Piggott, Jason Moore; Paddy O'Sullivan, Sean Byrne; Adam Ryan, Ronan Coffey, Rioghan Murphy; Jake Foster, David Murphy, Colm Murphy.
Subs: Darragh Galvin for Coffey 43, Darragh Slevin for Mulpeter 47, Eoin McCann for Foster 50, Colin Slevin for Galvin 52, Johnny Fullam for Ryan 62.
Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).