CROKES PRESERVE UNBEATEN AFL START WITH VICTORY OVER THOMAS DAVIS
DUBLIN ADULT FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
KILMACUD CROKES 4-8 THOMAS DAVIS 1-12
By Daire Walsh
The impressive Pat Burke grabbed a hat-trick of goals at Kiltipper Road last night to help Kilmacud Crokes preserve their unbeaten start to Division One of the Adult Football League.
Trailing by eight points (1-9 to 1-1) on 21 minutes, the Stillorgan men eventually got to grips with the challenge of Davis. Having reduced their deficit in time for the interval, they subsequently registered 2-5 without reply in a dominant second half performance.
Prior to embarking on the defence of their Senior Championship crown – back-to-back group wins over Ballymun Kickhams and Na Fianna re-establishing their title credentials – Crokes recorded wins over St Brigid’s and Ballymun either side of a stalemate with Ballyboden St Enda’s.
After falling to a comprehensive 3-11 to 0-12 reversal at the hands of Ballinteer St John’s in their opening game of the competition, Davis suffered narrow top-flight losses to both Ballymun and Skerries Harps.
They were facing a much-changed Crokes side on their home turf, with inter-county stars Paul Mannion, Cian O’Sullivan and Rory O’Carroll proving to be notable absentees. O’Carroll’s brother Ross deputised for him at the heart of the defence, while Burke and Kevin Dyas provided the greatest level of experience in attack.
The visitors were shooting into a strong breeze during the opening period, which meant they had to be patient in their quest for clear-cut scoring opportunities. Conor Kinsella and Eoin Kirby traded early points, before the latter added a 0-2 salvo to give Davis some breathing space.
This was quickly supplemented by a stunning Ryan Deegan goal in the ninth-minute – the midfielder firing superbly beyond the reach of Adam McGovern at the end of a powerful solo run. It was beginning to look ominous for Crokes when Mark Nolan and the influential Kirby (two) combined to enhance the Davis cushion, but they received a potential lifeline on the first-quarter mark.
Following a foul on the raiding Kinsella, Burke coolly dispatched a penalty past the helpless Robbie Crilly. Initially, this only offered a brief respite to Crokes as Eanna O’Toole complimented another Kirby brace to restore Davis’ stranglehold on the contest.
Yet, Crokes were beginning to find space inside the opposition ’45’ and shook the net for a second time through a composed Dyas finish. The former Armagh footballer profited as a result of Ciaran Russell’s excellent build-up play and a Burke free meant their gap now stood at just four points.
The evergreen corner-forward (who has represented Dublin and Clare at inter-county level in the past) proceeded to split the uprights off another place-ball effort, though Reilly and Deegan ensured Davis were 1-11 to 2-3 in front at the break.
Despite requiring a re-alignment to combat against the elements, Davis maintained their momentum on the restart courtesy of Kirby’s superb free on the left-wing. They encountered a new-look Crokes forward line, however, with Callum Pearson and Dara Mullin replacing Kinsella and Hugh Kenny respectively.
In the space of 60 seconds, Pearson kicked a couple of outstanding points to give Crokes renewed hope. Mullin was also eager to make an impact and it was his incisive run down the left-hand side that released Burke for another smooth strike past Crilly on 41 minutes.
Off the resulting attack, Russell found the target off his right boot to sensationally wipe out Thomas Davis’ cushion. Just shy of the third-quarter mark – with the game firmly in the melting pot – Crokes introduced Brian Sheehy and Niall Brady as another double replacement.
Simultaneously, Shane McGrath (a former team-mate of Burke in the Clare panel) and Stephen O’Byrne were thrust into the action for Davis. It was an earlier substitute – Mullin – who continued to prosper and he was hauled down inside the square for another Crokes penalty.
For the second time on the night, Burke converted the ensuing place-kick. In addition to completing his aforementioned hat-trick, he had also edged Crokes into the ascendancy for the first time. A Stephen Williams point stretched them four clear and in spite of a 10 minute barren spell in front of the posts, Burke fired over what was effectively an insurance score.
After Crokes had already utilised their full compliment of substitutes, Burke was black-carded for a foul on McGrath. Williams’ dismissal on a second yellow-card offence meant Kilmacud ended the tie with just 13 players, but they had done more than enough to claim the spoils.
They can now look forward with confidence to their Sunday morning clash against Na Fianna at St Mobhi Road. By contrast, Thomas Davis will aim to dust themselves down for an away trip to Cuala on the same day.
Scorers – Kilmacud Crokes: Pat Burke 3-3 (2-0 pen, 0-3f), Kevin Dyas 1-0, Callum Pearson 0-2, Ciaran Russell, Conor Kinsella, Stephen Williams 0-1 each. Thomas Davis: Eoin Kirby 0-8 (5f), Ryan Deegan 1-1, Sean Reilly 0-2, Eanna O’Toole 0-1.
KILMACUD CROKES: Adam McGovern; Nathan Nolan, Ross O’Carroll, Michael Mullin; Aidan Jones, Cillian O’Shea, Ronan Ryan; Gavin English, Ciaran Russell; Conor Kinsella, Dan O’Brien, Stephen Williams; Hugh Kenny, Kevin Dyas, Pat Burke. Subs: Callum Pearson for Kinsella, Dara Mullin for Kenny (both half-time), Brian Sheehy for O’Carroll, Niall Brady for Ryan (both 44), Mark O’Leary for Dyas (46), Henry O’Donnell for O’Brien (52).
THOMAS DAVIS: Robbie Crilly; Brian Kirby, Aaron Shorten, Conor Molloy; Sean Kennedy, Peter Quinn, Cian Murphy; Ryan Deegan, Brendan Kirby; Oisin Kelly, Eoin Kirby, Sean Farrelly; Eanna O’Toole, Sean Reilly, Mark Nolan. Subs: Shane McGrath for O’Toole, Stephen O’Byrne for Farrelly (both 44), Chris Sallier for Nolan (50).
Referee: Andrew Cummins (Trinity Gaels).