By Conor Martin
Kilmacud Crokes will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of Leinster titles in-a-row, when they take on Naas at Croke Park in the AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Final on Saturday afternoon (2.15pm).
After winning the Go-Ahead Dublin Senior 1 Football Championship for the third time on the trot after seeing off Ballyboden St Endas, they advanced into Leinster.
Carlow’s Éire Óg would be their quarter-final opponents and Kilmacud progressed with ease as they won by 11 points. Shane Walsh and Dara Mullin led the way on the scoring front as Kilmacud taught the Carlow side a clinical lesson in front of the posts, with Éire Óg limited to just four scores to show for their efforts.
They would be made to work for a spot in the final by Ardee St Mary's, who reduced Crokes’ 10-point half-time lead to two by the time the game had entered the final 15 minutes of the tie. Walsh hit a trio of scores on the way to a final tally of five, while Shane Horan and Luke Ward came off the bench to ensure a day out at Croke Park for the Stillorgan club.
The reliable Paul Mannion also scored five, Darragh Dempsey rattled the net the last time out and alongside the likes of Walsh and Mullin, they have enough in their locker to help Kilmacud secure a historic three in a row.
Naas are also looking to make history on Saturday as they look to claim the Leinster crown for the first time.
Just like Kilmacud, they won the county title for the third time in succession when they beat Celbridge in the final of this year’s Kildare Senior Football Championship.
They also enjoyed a comfortable win in their Leinster quarter-final against Meath’s Summerhill. Eoghan Prizeman and Sean Hanafin both had the umpires raising green flags as teammates Alex Beirne and Darragh Kirwan both added significant contributions to see Naas safely into the semi-finals.
They would need extra-time in order to book the final in their diaries, as they eventually overcame St Loman’s 1-15 to 1-10. Berne and Kirwan would pick up from where they had left off in the quarter-final, with the latter scoring 1-7 to help his side into the provincial final.
Kirwan’s 1-7 in the semi-final was the highest individual tally from a player so far in this year’s Leinster Championship and he has scored 1-10 overall so far this Championship. He and fellow Kildare county panellist Beirne pose a threat to Kilmacud’s aspirations and that will be something Kilmacud manager Robbie Brennan will be fully aware of.
The two teams know each other well, having met in the 2021 final and at the quarter-final stage last year, with Kilmacud Crokes coming out on top on both occasions.
Naas will undoubtedly be spurred on by their two defeats against the Dubliners and without question, the prospect of winning a first-ever senior Leinster title against the team that ended their Leinster ambitions in the last two editions of the Championship makes Naas a very dangerous animal to come up against.
Kilamcud Crokes, on the other hand, have shown their experience and class on several occasions this year and that experience and ability to manage the games when the pressure is on could prove the difference as they look to lift the Seán McCabe Cup once more.