KILMACUD CROKES 1-16
ARDEE ST MARY’S 1-11
Kilmacud Crokes advanced to their third successive provincial final when getting the better of Ardee St Mary’s by five points in their AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final in Ardee on Sunday afternoon.
The contest seemed effectively over by half-time as the holders dominated en route to an interval lead of 1-10 to 0-3 but they became increasingly ragged after the break as they saw their lead whittled down to just two points early in the fourth quarter.
They finally regained their control to pull clear in the closing stages, albeit having to withstand some late scares on their goal as they progressed to a final meeting against Naas.
That such late drama would unfold seemed unlikely given the control that Kilmacud exerted from the outset with Paul Mannion leading the way with an exceptional first-half display.
It was Crokes that started on the front foot with Cian O’Connor opening the scoring in the 1st minute and Andy McGowan was another defender that burst forward for a well-taken score.
Mannion and Shane Walsh began to stamp their class on proceedings with the former scoring five points from play, three off his left and a brace off his right, while Walsh added two scores to keep his side on the front foot.
The Kilmacud goal arrived in the 18th minute with McGowan centrally involved once again as his pass afforded Daragh Dempsey the time and space to fire to the back of the net.
St Mary’s raised some local cheer through frees from Carl Gillespie and Jonathan Commins but they faced a huge mountain to climb at the interval as they trailed by ten points.
However, they managed to make significant inroads into their arrears in the third quarter as they hit 1-5 without reply to leave the contest delicately poised for the final quarter.
They made intelligent use of the advanced mark with Ciaran Keenan scoring from two in quick succession early into the restart and their momentum grew as they pounced for an opportunistic goal in the 40th minute.
Dara Mullin was caught in possession 45 metres from his goal and with David Higgins stranded, Ryan Rooney made the most of his absence with a precise finish from distance that nestled in the back of the net.
Crucially, Ardee missed a couple of chances to trim their arrears even further and they were punished for their profligacy as Crokes regrouped impressively in the final quarter.
Walsh added a point from play to his brace of frees while substitutes Shane Horan and Luke Ward also added points, handing Crokes sufficient breathing room to close the game out, albeit in a less than composed manner.
Scorers – Kilmacud Crokes: P Mannion, S Walsh (3f) 0-5 each, D Dempsey 1-0, C O’Connor, A McGowan, S Cunningham, S Horan, D Mullin, L Ward 0-1 apiece. Ardee St Mary’s: J Commins (3f), C Keenan (3m) 0-3 each, R Rooney 1-0, K Gillespie (2f) 0-2, L Jackson, T Jackson, D McConnon 0-1 apiece.
Kilmacud Crokes: D Higgins; A Quinn, R O’Carroll, D O’Brien; M O’Leary, C O’Connor, A McGowan; B Sheehy, C Dias; D Dempsey, P Mannion, D Mullin; H Kenny, S Cunningham, S Walsh. Subs: S Horan for Dempsey (44), C Pearson for Kenny (49), L Ward for Cunningham (51), L Flatman for Sheehy (60).
Ardee St Mary’s: J McGillick; D McKenny, E Keenan, T Corrigan; K Moran, P McKenny, C Gillespie; S Callaghan, R Leavy; L Jackson, C Keenan, J Commins; R Rooney, D McConnon, T Jackson. Subs: S Matthews for Commins (55), T McDonnell for Corrigan (55), R Carroll for Rooney (57).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).