AIB Leinster Club SHC: Crokes impress again
AIB Leinster Club SHC Semi-Final
Kilmacud Crokes 1-24 St Mullin's 1-12
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Kilmacud Crokes will compete in both AIB Leinster club senior finals next Sunday after their hurlers matched the achievement of the footballers by navigating their way through to the decider.
Beaten in last season's semi-final, Kieran Dowling's side made it back to the province's last four and came good this time with a comfortable win to book their place in next Sunday's decider alongside Ballyhale Shamrocks.
It will be a double header of provincial finals on the day with the Crokes footballers also slated to face The Downs of Westmeath.
That does raise a problem for dual player Brian Sheehy, a point scorer in both semi-final wins, though aside from that it's all good news for the Crokes supporters who are sure to travel to GAA headquarters in big numbers for the landmark occasion.
Crokes will inevitably be underdogs for the hurling decider against four-in-a-row chasing Ballyhale but they will return with momentum on their side after streaking past Carlow champions St Mullin's and winning with plenty to spare.
In-form ex-Dublin attacker Oisin O'Rorke was terrific again for Crokes and contributed 0-11 while goalscorer Ronan Hayes, Fergal Whitely and Micheal Roche impressed for the Glenalbyn outfit too.
St Mullin's were looking for a fast start as they sought to pull off a win similar to their 2019 success against then Dublin title holders Cuala.
St Mullin's went on to contest the provincial final with Ballyhale Shamrocks on that occasion and knew in advance of facing Crokes this time that the Kilkenny side had once again made it through to the decider.
Any hopes of a St Mullin's/Ballyhale provincial final rematch were quickly wiped out though as Crokes opened up at a thunderous pace and immediately put significant daylight between the teams.
Crokes moved 0-4 to 0-1 ahead thanks in part to back to back points from O'Rorke and a further burst of 1-7 without response between the 16th and 23rd minutes went a long way to deciding this tie.
Roche got that blitz of scoring underway and the back to back Dublin champions reeled off five points in a row before Hayes struck his 21st minute goal after a clever solo run through the middle.
Hayes could have taken a handy point but, sensing St Mullin's were vulnerable, went for the jugular and burst beyond centre-back Michael Walsh before volleying to the net.
O'Rorke added a point after another turnover in the St Mullin's defence and with 23 minutes on the clock, Crokes now led by 1-11 to 0-3.
Crokes hit the interval with a commanding 1-13 to 0-06 lead and a horror half of hurling for St Mullin's was perhaps summed up by star attacker Marty Kavanagh's poor goal attempt from a 13th minute penalty - following Bill O'Carroll's high tackle on Jason O'Neill - which flew tamely wide of Eddie Gibbons' upright.
St Mullin's did convert three points after the restart to hint at a potential revival, James Doyle, Conor Kehoe and Marty Kavanagh all splitting the posts.
But four Crokes points in response, all scored by the excellent O'Rorke, went a long way towards shutting the door on the underdogs.
Sheehy surged forward and pinched an excellent score from the left wing in the 49th minute.
By that stage, Crokes manager Kieran Dowling was starting to ring the changes and there was a sense of inevitability about the result as Kilmacud went through the motions in the closing minutes, stretching the gap to 14 points at one stage.
St Mullin's, who beat Ferns of Wexford in the quarter-finals, did at least finish on a high with a well taken 62nd minute goal from Kehoe who danced through the Crokes defence after being set clear by Paddy Boland.
Scorers for Kilmacud Crokes: Oisin O'Rorke 0-11 (0-5f, 0-2 65), Fergal Whitely 0-3, Ronan Hayes 1-1, Dara Purcell 0-3, Micheal Roche 0-2, Brendan Scanlon 0-2, Brian Sheehy 0-1, Caolan Conway 0-1.
Scorers for St Mullin's: Conor Kehoe 1-2, Marty Kavanagh 0-5 (0-4f), Paddy Boland 0-2, James Doyle 0-2, Jack Kavanagh 0-1.
Kilmacud Crokes: E Gibbons; B Sheehy, D Butler, B O'Carroll; C MacGabhann, C O Cathasaigh, M Grogan; B Hayes, D Purcell; F Whitely, R Hayes, C Conway; O O'Rorke, B Scanlon, M Roche.
Subs: Cian Ryan for O'Carroll 20, Robert O'Loughlin for Grogan 39, Fionn O Ceallaigh for Conway 46, Rory Smith for Butler 57, Ronan Costello for O'Rorke 57.
St Mullin's: Kevin Kehoe; Gary Bennett, Paul Doyle, John Doran; Paidi O'Shea, Michael Walsh, Ger Coady; Jack Kavanagh, Paudie Kehoe; Conor Kehoe, James Doyle, Phillip Connors; Jason O'Neill, Marty Kavanagh, Paddy Boland.
Subs: John Doyle for Bennett 24, Eddie Doyle for Connors 46, Oisin Ryan for O'Neill 46, Cathal Connolly for O'Shea 60, Paddy Walsh for Marty Kavanagh 61.
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow).