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Sunday 23 September 2018

Crokes triumph assures top spot finish

Dublin SHC Group 2: Kilmacud Crokes 0-20 Na Fianna 1-14

Na Fianna’s Fergal Breathnach challenges Kilmacud Crokes’ Marc Howard during their Dublin SHC clash at Parnell Park last night
Na Fianna’s Fergal Breathnach challenges Kilmacud Crokes’ Marc Howard during their Dublin SHC clash at Parnell Park last night
Na Fianna’s Conor Kelly closes in on Crokes’ Michael Roche

Kilmacud Crokes claimed top spot in Group Two of the Dublin Senior 'A' Hurling Championship with an impressive triumph over Na Fianna at Parnell Park last night.

Fergal Whitely and Mark Howard were in fine form throughout, as Anthony Daly's charges got the better of their northside counterparts. Even though both sides were already assured of a place in the knockout rounds, this loss will nevertheless come as a set-back to Na Fianna.

When the two sides met in Division One of the Adult Hurling League at the end of July, Crokes squeezed through with three points to spare (0-18 to 0-15). Centre-forward Whitely broke the deadlock for Crokes on this occasion with a second-minute point, before Na Fianna moved into the ascendancy courtesy of back-to-back efforts from Colin Currie.

Though Whitely and Mark Howard offered a physical presence for Crokes, there was little to separate the sides in the opening quarter. Dublin senior footballer Conor McHugh was a notable inclusion in the Na Fianna attack, but it was Currie who continued to be their primary source of scores.

He cancelled out an Oisin O'Rourke point for their southside opponents, in advance of traded efforts between Whitely and Conor Kelly. Lorcan McMullan and Howard (free) were on target either side of Currie's fourth point - keeping Crokes on level terms with their fellow challengers.

Yet, it was during this juncture that the six-time champions truly found their attacking rhythm. Three points without reply through Ronan Hayes, Whitely and Sean McGrath significantly bolstered their prospects.

Na Fianna briefly halted their momentum with an AJ Murphy score, only for Whitely, McMullen and Howard to enhance their own personal tallies at the tail end of intricate attacking moves. After securing a league final spot with victory over St Vincent's last Saturday, the Glasnevin outfit were now struggling to get a grip in the middle-third.

Currie and Paul O'Dea split the posts from distance to keep them in the reckoning, but thanks to additional contributions by the central axis of Howard and Whitely, Crokes entered the interval with a five-point buffer (0-13 to 0-8).

Wary of a backlash by Na Fianna, Crokes maintained their second-quarter momentum on the restart. Despite losing the O'Carrolls - Bill and Ross - to injury, McMullen, O'Rourke, Caolan Conway and Howard all found the range in quick succession.

Currie's 0-2 salvo released some of the pressure on Na Fianna, though Corcoran reinforced Crokes' superiority with a superb long-range strike. A potential lifeline then arrived for the Mobhi Road brigade on the three-quarter mark, when Matt Collins hauled down Murphy inside the square.

However, after the dependable netminder turned away Donal Burke's subsequent effort, it looked like Na Fianna would have to settle for a second-place finish.

Crokes' eight-point lead - 0-20 to 0-12 - on 52 minutes appeared to be an insurmountable one, but there was enough time for a late Na Fianna surge. Following another Currie brace - bringing his final haul to 0-11 - McHugh found the net deep into stoppage-time.

This ensured that Kilmacud were kept on their toes, though they ultimately came through with their 100 per cent record intact.

Scorers - Kilmacud Crokes: M Howard 0-6 (4f), F Whitely 0-5, L McMullan 0-3, O O'Rourke 0-2, N Corcoran, S McGrath, C Conway, R Hayes 0-1 each. Na Fianna: C Currie 0-11 (8f, 1 '65), C McHugh 1-0, C Kelly, AJ Murphy, P O'Dea 0-1 each.

KILMACUD CROKES: M Collins; N Corcoran, B O'Carroll, J Clinton; R O'Carroll, R O'Dwyer, C MacGabhann; L McMullan, C Hayes; S McGrath, F Whitely, C Conway; O O'Rourke, M Howard, R Hayes. Subs: D Kelly for R O'Carroll (32), D Butler for B O'Carroll (38), M Roche for Conway (41), A Considine for C Hayes (56), B O'Rourke for McGrath (58).

NA FIANNA: J Tracey; S Burke, M Quilty, C Kelly; D Malleady, O Malleady, P Feeney; P Buggy, F Breathnach; C McHugh, AJ Murphy, P O'Dea; S O'Sullivan, D Burke, C Currie. Subs: S Currie for O'Sullivan (h-t), C Heeney for O'Dea (60).

Referee: Sean Stack (Parnell's).

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