Crokes strike to see off Mun bid
Kilmacud Crokes 2-13 Ballymun Kickhams 0-14 (Dublin SFC)
Kilmacud Crokes kick-started the defence of their Dublin Senior Football Championship title with a deserved triumph over Ballymun Kickhams at Parnell Park on Saturday.
Goal in each half by Paul Mannion and Stephen Williams proved pivotal to the success of the Stillorgan men, while the marauding Andy McGowan also broke forward to kick three points from play. Dean Rock led the way for Ballymun with a seven-point haul and they remained in the reckoning until Williams struck home on 59 minutes.
Although this is only the beginning of their respective campaigns, Crokes have laid down a marker for all others to follow. They will now face Na Fianna in the next phase of Group One, with 'Mun hoping to bounce back against fellow northsiders St Sylvester's.
At either end of the field, there were a set of intriguing match-ups to heighten the anticipation around this already mouthwatering encounter. In his first championship appearance since late 2015, Kilmacud's Rory O'Carroll was tasked with curbing the considerable influence of Rock.
Likewise, James McCarthy was handed a man-marking job in the 'Mun defence on inter-county compatriot Paul Mannion. While Rock evaded O'Carroll to break the deadlock, McCarthy and his colleagues were the ones under the cosh during the opening exchanges.
After curling a superb effort off his left, Mannion grabbed the maiden goal of the contest on eight minutes. Following Philly McMahon's push on Shane Cunningham, the two-time All Star coolly dispatched the resulting penalty beyond the reach of Sean Currie.
Callum Pearson and the evergreen Pat Burke increased their advantage before Rock converted a routine free on the stroke of 15 minutes. Despite Burke adding a second free for Crokes, 'Mun were slowly working their way into the game.
Rock reduced the deficit by posting a brace of points and the five-time Celtic Cross winner turned provider for an Anton Swann score. In addition to an opening period tally of 0-4, the normally-reliable Rock also registered two wides for the 2012 champions.
Crokes' final execution wasn't always at its optimum level, but McGowan and Cunningham points propelled them towards a 1-6 to 0-5 interval lead. It was expected that 'Mun would produce a reaction on the restart and the introduction of Ted Furman certainly offered an extra dimension to their attacking play.
He was positioned on the edge of the square - in direct opposition to O'Carroll - though it was Jason Whelan and Rock that made the initial roads. Yet, Pearson and Burke quickly restored Crokes' four-point cushion - in advance of traded points between Paddy Small and McGowan.
The roving Cillian O'Shea found the target for Crokes, but they were significantly reined in by a fired-up 'Mun at the beginning of the final quarter. Alan Hubbard, Furman, Rock (free) and Liam O'Donovan shot points to leave the gap at a bare minimum (1-10 to 0-12).
Crokes regained momentum through Mannion and McGowan points, only for Furman and Rock to give 'Mun a fighting chance of coming out on the right side of the result. However, this was as close as they came to turning over the holders.
In spite of Furman's danger, the entrance of Williams into the fray was the key to Crokes keeping their head above water. He rounded off an extended move with a fine point and subsequently fired past Currie - selected ahead of Sky Blues panellist Evan Comerford on the night - to finally see off the challenge of Ballymun.