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Monday 11 December 2017

crokes' character earns sixth crown

NOBODY saw that coming - a game of four halves.

Donnycarney's version of The Late Late Show.

When did that last happen in a Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final.

It was a chance for new boss, Ger Cunningham, to take plenty of notes.

And also to admire one of the goalkeeping displays of the season from fellow Leesider, Matt Collins.

Kilmacud collected their sixth title, and Collins was one of the major reasons that they did so.

He made a remarkable stop from Fionn Ó Riain Broin in the first half, and he made another terrific save in extra-time to foil Ronan Joyce.

But it was his overall excellence and composure, when the kitchen was at its hottest, that proved so telling.

On the final whistle, the Stillorgan faithful were out on the pitch. For much of the evening, they must have felt the trophy was going back to Tymon.

And it was only in the extra-time that the warmest of favourites, Crokes, began to play with zest.

They realised that they had been given a second chance, and they made full use of the opening.

"We were just delighted to get the draw in ordinary time," admitted Crokes manager, Ollie Baker.

"We seized our opportunity then. We got the first few scores and we managed to pull away.

"Those scores gave us the base to drive on. And the overriding emotion was relief rather than anything else."

The game was level seven times. The pitch looked in marvellous condition under the lights.

Referee, Danny Harrington, threw in the sliotar on the button. There was a decent crowd, but the main stand wasn't full.

It took a while for the kettle to come to the boil. But it was simmering away. Good, honest endeavour, and Jude's could feel well pleased.

Many people hadn't given them a prayer coming into the match. They weren't listening.

And they were on the verge of history. Crokes just couldn't find that sparkle.

It took Ross O'Carroll's arrow to the right corner at the church end to ease their concern on 49 minutes.

But they still found themselves two points down coming to the hour. A Seán McGrath 65 brought it back to one.

And McGrath opened the gate for Damien Kelly to send the duel to extra-time.

Ollie Baker had been saying his prayers.

"The worse feeling you can have walking into a dressing-room is regret. Had we lost, we would have had huge regret that we did not perform like we know we can, but thankfully that did not happen.

"The lads dug it out. You learn an awful lot about yourself when you are down. That's when you get the true reflection of who you are.

"We were hanging on by our finger nails for long periods. Matt Collins had to make several excellent saves to keep us in it.

"That second goal gave us a nice advantage at half-time in extra-time. Ross (O'Carroll) came through with the ball and he made the right decision in letting it off to Seán (McGrath).

"Seán was able to get the goal, and that gave us a valuable cushion."

The hour ended with Crokes on 1-11 and Jude's on 0-14.

At half-time in extra-time, Crokes led by 2-13 to 0-4.

Apart from the McGrath goal, they had first half extra-time points from Ryan O'Dwyer and the impressive Cian Mac Gabhann.

O'Dwyer began to show his best hand in the extra-time. There was much more of a zest about them now. They realised how close they had come to losing.

But still Jude's kept coming. Paul Maguire's goal and a Joyce point saw only a goal in it coming to the close of extra-time.

Crokes still had a bit of work to do before they made it onto the Stillorgan dual carriageway.

But when the last whistle blew, it was 2-16 to Kilmacud and 1-15 to Jude's.

"It would be remiss of us not to say what a wonderful performance Jude's put in. They threw their bodies on the line," remarked Ollie.

"They were absolutely phenomenal. Hats off to them for the contribution they made to that game.

"And now isn't brilliant to be going into the month of November and looking forward to playing hurling in the Leinster Club Championship.

"We are just thrilled that we are the Dublin champions. The players deserve it."

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