Dublin SFC Group 4: Kilmacud Crokes 1-11 Castleknock 0-12
A 4th minute goal from Dara Mullin proved decisive as Kilmacud Crokes secured top spot in Group 4 of the Dublin Senior Football Championship with a slender two-point win over Castleknock at Parnell Park yesterday afternoon.
Their reward is a last eight encounter with St Vincent's and while they came through again to complete their third successive group win, it wasn't the most compelling of arguments in terms of replicating their success from 2018.
Indeed, but for some errant shooting on Castleknock's part, they could well have been on the receiving end of the two-point margin but to their credit, they looked in control in the closing stages, despite playing with fourteen after Liam Flatman's black card.
That was the most encouraging aspect for manager Robbie Brennan to mull over but finding the right balance in attack may prove his biggest challenge given the wealth of options that he has at his disposal, with only late replacement Dan O'Brien reaching the standard generally required at this level.
Paul Mannion was a peripheral figure for the large part while the same could be applied to Shane Horan, two players that were instrumental in their success of two year's ago.
For Castleknock, it was a tale of missed opportunities with Seamus O'Carroll guilty of spurning a brace of presentable goal chances and they appeared to lack genuine belief in that vital closing period as they failed to reel in their opponents despite a monopoly in terms of possession.
They will also rue a sloppy start that began with O'Brien given too much latitude to open the scoring in the 2nd minute and soon after, Mullin was on hand to poke home after Morven Connolly had blocked well from Hugh Kenny.
O'Brien fired over another classy effort in the 6th minute prior to Castleknock finally opening their account through a Ciaran Kilkenny point from the resultant restart.
With Crokes stuttering on their own kick-outs, their opponents seized control of matters with Kilkenny highly influential and his three points on the bounce following an earlier effort from the lively Tommy McDaniel left the sides deadlocked at 1-2 to 0-5 by the end of the first quarter.
However, their inability to drive home their advantage at this time would back to haunt them as they kicked seven first-half wides in contrast to Kilmacud's near perfect return as Crokes regained their lead following a brace of Paul Mannion frees.
Mullin began to show his worth in the Crokes attack as he popped over two points in quick succession and while McDaniels added a brace of his own towards the end of the half, another Mullin score ensured Crokes entered the break with a healthy 1-7 to 0-7 interval advantage.
The contest resumed in a similar fashion of Kilmacud making the most of the chances that presented themselves as O'Brien edged them four points clear with his third point from play, almost directly from the throw-in.
O'Carroll and Kenny traded points as the encounter continued in an entertaining way without truly igniting although Castleknock offered their support isolated moments of encouragement thanks to successive scores from McDaniel and O'Carroll to halve their arrears to two points by the 36th minute.
Sadly, from their perspective, it was as close as they got, despite some fine defensive displays from Rob Shaw, Eoin O'Brien and Paul Tolan, with Kilmacud restoring their four point lead by the 42nd minute thanks to points by O'Brien and Conor Casey.
Remarkably, Casey's point proved Kilmacud's final score of the game but that unpalatable statistic never looked likely to prove fatal given the general comfort with which they held the Castleknock attack at arm's length.
Granted, they conceded further points to Ger McDermott Roe and Shaw as the half progressed and they were further inconvenienced as Flatman was black carded in the 56th minute for an off-the-ball altercation.
Kilkenny, who had reverted to a more deep-lying role in the second-half, may well have been pushed closer to goal to help Castleknock find that elusive goal but that switch never materialised as he continued to probe without too much success.
That left his team short of a Plan B as Cian O'Connor and Andrew McGowan kept matters as secure as could be expected and there were no further alarms for Crokes as they held on comfortably.
Scorers - Kilmacud Crokes: D Mullin 1-3 (1f), D O'Brien 0-4, P Mannion 0-2 (2f), C Casey, H Kenny 0-1 each. Castleknock: C Kilkenny, T McDaniel 0-4 each, S O'Carroll 0-2, R Shaw, G McDermott Roe (f) 0-1 each.
Kilmacud Crokes: C Ferris; M Mullin, R O'Carroll, R McGowan; C O'Connor, C O'Sullivan, A McGowan; C Dias, C Casey; S Horan, D O'Brien, C Kinsella; H Kenny, D Mullin, P Mannion. Subs: L Flatman for R McGowan (44), P Purcell for Horan (46), C Pearson for Kenny (57), N O'Leary for Kinsella (60).
Castleknock: M Connolly; C Murphy, R Shaw, E O'Brien; J Tolan, T Quinn, P Bourke; D Warnock, J Sherry; S O'Carroll, C Kilkenny, S Boland; T McDaniel, G McDermott Roe, C Chawke. Subs: B Galvin for Chawke (half-time), K Kindlon for McDermott Roe (48), K Stephenson for Sherry (53).
REF: David O'Connor (Naomh Mearnóg).