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Long Road ends for Crokes Superstars

AS they have done all season, Kilmacud Crokes did everything right.

They travelled to the Kingdom on Saturday. They were well rested before Sunday's Tesco All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship semi-final.

They were in the land of Con Houlihan, and indeed Charlie Nelligan, the former Kerry and Home Farm goalkeeper.

Charlie is the master baker. When Mikey Sheehy popped in that famous All-Ireland final goal at the Canal end, Con wrote that Paddy Cullen ran back to his goal with the anxious look of a woman who had left her cake too long in the oven.

The atmosphere at the home of Castleisland Desmonds was hot. "There was a huge crowd there," reveals Kilmacud manager, Tommy Doran.

"And that was despite Austin Stacks playing in Tralee."

The Stacks are, of course, the club of Kieran Donaghy. He's the favourite footballer of the Stillorgan captain, Ann Marie McBarron.

She plays in the defence. "Our backs were super again. They conceded very little from play," reflected Tommy.

In the end, it went to extra-time. Castleisland won it 0-16 to 3-3.

"We have no excuses. The better team won," summed up the Crokes chief. "But our girls put in a super effort. You couldn't fault any of them. They gave it 110 per cent.

"But Castleisland had that extra bit of experience and that was a crucial factor.

"They have five or six Kerry senior players, and they were clinical from their frees.

"We made a good start. We got three goals in the first half, but we also had a few wides.

"We found it very hard to create openings for points, and that's what cost us in the end. It was just so difficult to break down their defence.

"They got 16 scores to our six scores, so you can't argue with that."

The goals came from Lauren Magee, Holly Greer and Aoife Kavanagh. Magee is a marvellous footballer and the daughter of the Crokes icon, Jonny, the new Wicklow manager.

The Dubliners led at half-time, 3-0 to 0-6, and on 40 minutes it was 3-1 to 0-7. The hosts had levelled by the end of the hour, 0-11 to 3-2.

Castleisland did damage in the first half of extra-time, and at half-time in the extra-time, it was 0-15 to 3-2.

The audience were treated to a splendid spectacle, and many had made the trip from Pairc De Burca.

"The support we got was fantastic," acknowledges Tommy. "They came in the cars, on buses, everything. We really appreciated it.

"We have had a super run. It was a pity it had to end, but that's the way it goes.

"But coming back up on the bus, our heads were not down. We got beaten by a better team.

"All you can do is to go out and do your best. And when you do that, you can have no regrets.

"We have a very young side. It was a terrific campaign and experience for them. I think the average age of our forward line is 18 or 19.

"We are so proud of all the girls. To win the Dublin Intermediate Championship and then to go on and win Leinster for the first time in the club's history was a wonderful achievement.

"And I have to say they are just such a wonderful group," remarks Tommy, whose colleagues in the dugout are Donal Gallagher, Mark Regan, Daphne Lamb and Donald Whoriskey.