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Banner man Baker lavishes high praise on Kilmacud's deadball hero McGrath

CHOOSING a Man of the Match can very often be a tedious chore.

That act of bestowing a somewhat glib honour which fails to recognise the nuance of a given game.

And sometimes, it's really easy and straight-forward, like when a player scores 15 points and his team win by one.

Which isn't to overlook the preventative and calming influences of Matt Collins or Niall Corcoran on Kilmacud Crokes AIB Leinster club quarter-final win over Rathdowney/Errill yesterday in Parnell Park.

It's just that, on a day when the referee has a hair-trigger for awarding frees, you may as well make hay while the November sun shines.


"Seánie was brilliant for us today," praised Ollie Baker (pictured, opposite page) of his captain, Seánie McGrath, the owner of a stack of points 15 high and a hamstring injury for his Sunday afternoon.

"And in the county final as well. That really was the most important thing for us. He kept us in touch. There was momentum going in our direction.

"And you need scores to win matches and it's the big players who step up on the big days and Seánie is phenomenal for us and I'm just delighted for him and delighted that with all the hard work that he does, that he gets his rewards."

Yesterday, McGrath took 14 frees and a '65' and missed just one.

His repertoire was wide and varied.

He hit one from Bill O'Carroll's right-half back position in the first half, easily 90 metres from the Rathdowney goal. Off either wing, McGrath was similarly accurate and his point from play, under the Parnell Park scoreboard, was an angular gem.

"The first thing you're looking at from a free taker is a bit of dependability and he always has that," explained Baker,

"It's great when lads are trying to break through that if they are fouled, Seánie is going to put the ball down and put it over the bar and do his thing.

"I'd sooner if there were no frees and you could get all your scores from play. It would be wonderful but that's not the reality we live in.

"But he has a job to do and the ethos would be that if we all do our job, we wouldn't have to shoulder too much of a burden."

True, referee Paud O'Dwyer's threshold for physical contact was considerably lower than, say, anything Crokes would have experienced in the Dublin SHC.

You could only imagine the sort of reception the Carlow referee would have got for awarding those sort of frees in Nowlan Park during yesterday's county semi-final but he was absolutely consistent throughout.

Ross King, no slouch from placed balls himself, scored ten and sent another four wide.


"It is a tight pitch and at this level, both teams are very fit. We got a lot of frees as well," noted Conor Gleeson, the Rathdowney/Errill manager who won an All-Ireland SHC with Tipperary in 2001."

"Their free-taker was fantastic. I think he missed one, that I can remember. At this time of the year, there are more frees than there are in the middle of summer but once you get the free, you have to take the chances. And they did.

"Look, on any day, the referee has to make split decisions. We're not going to be cribbing one bit," he added.

"We're going to be shouting for them in the next round against the Kilkenny champions.

"They beat us. We've no qualms about it. We're not going to be giving out about silly frees.

"Maybe some of them could have gone the other way but we're not going to be giving out."