Crokes defeat gallant Cratloe in Munster Final

December 3rd, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

All the drama, thrills and excitement were packed into the second half of this magnificent Munster Club football Final at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds last Sunday and at the end of an enthralling battle played in perfect weather conditions the experience, composure and point kicking ability of the reigning champions Dr Crokes under the most utmost pressure saw them deservedly retain the Michael o Connor trophy, (Michael was one of the most dedicated members of the Croke club, and a man I had huge respect for). But boy what a fright they got from this magnificent Cratloe side that rose to the challenge in superb style. Not many teams in Kerry or Munster during the last four year have pushed Crokes so close to defeat as this gallant Clare side did. If trophies were distributed on the basis of desire, dedication, commitment and the steadfast pursuit of victory then Cratloe would be celebrating this Christmas. But sport can be cruel and not like this. Trophies are won on merit and it was Crokes ice cool finish which saw them avoid a sensational defeat.

The lake side men had turned in a scintillating first half displaying all that is best in their locker of class, movement and skill. Yes the losers did show glimpses of what they were capable of as they raced into an early two point lead after just a few minutes play but then the champions found their rhythm. Colm Cooper at full forward was at his domineering best turning and teasing the Clare defenders time after time. He slipped over three lovely points, Johnny Buckley and captain Ambrose o Donovan were dominating mid field and their team mates were picking up a load of breaks, a crucial area of the game which Crokes are masters at. Cratloe were to paraphrase that great boxing term reeling on the ropes and by the time the short whistle sounded they trailed 0-10 to 0-3. But in many ways Crokes had let them slightly off the hook as they kicked a series of very bad wides and really should have had the game done and dusted.

Very few outside the Clare camp gave them any hope of turning the proverbial tables as the raced out for the second half. However what we witnessed for the next thirty two minutes was as great a display by a Clare football club team as I have ever seen. And I can go right back to 1968 when I played with a star studded East Kerry against a great Doonbeg side in this very same Munster Championship. We first of all just about survived in Doonbeg savaging a draw and a week later in early April a home venue in Killarney saw us advance. So the Clare fighting spirit in this wonderful competition is nothing new.

The second half was as if you flicked a switched. Crokes dropped their intensity and Cratloe powered by their eight superbly fit Clare hurlers simply owned the ball. They came forward in wave after wave of attacks. Unbelievable they outscored the winners in this period 0-9 to 0-1. It was sensational stuff as the Clare side displayed great skill, ball retention and point kicking. Podge Collins, Connor McGrath and Fergal Lynch in particular were unbelievable in all aspects of the game and raised white flags from seemingly impossible positions. The Killarney men were simply played off the field. And remember Crokes very high fitness levels have been a huge part of their continued success. Watching this marvelous Cratloe effort backbone by eight hurlers it's easy to understand why Clare or senior and under twenty one All Ireland hurling champions. These men are a breed apart. 

Nevertheless when push came to shove in those pulsating closing minutes it was the Kerry side that held their nerve best of all. Four minutes of normal time left on the clock Cratloe led 0-12 to 0-11. Crokes were down to fourteen men as Colm Cooper had received a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Connor McGrath minutes before. Dahi Casey held his nerve to point a difficult enough free. Level pegging. Cratloe won the kick out and drove forward, the Croke defense cleared the danger and then we saw their years of experience and composure honed to the finest detail once again come to the fore as the clock ticked down. A series of measured, precise and unhurried passes saw Ambrose o Donovan set up the outstanding Johnny Buckley who drove the ball unerringly between the posts for the winning point.

I have watched and studied the Killarney men for many years and one of their greatest assets under the most trying circumstances is their wonderful composure when the fat is really in the fire. And this very same trait is what gave them their third in a row Munster title. A remarkable achievement by a club that has to be greatly admired for their utmost professionalism and organizational skills both on and off the field. What happens next is a subject for another day. The bar gets higher and higher. But when memories dim and other battles occupy the mind, for me the superb fitness of Cratloe, their undying spirit and their second half majestic display in their unwavering pursuit of glory against this great Kerry side will always be etched in the memory. It was great stuff.      

Fogra: Sixty year ago this year, 1953, Kerry won their Jubilee All Ireland senior football championship. It was a momentous year in the history of the county and one of the most celebrated of wins up until then. It had been a long wait for supporters since 1946 when the Sam Maguire had come to the county. Now eight years later Armagh had been defeated in a final that has gone down in history in particular for a missed penalty by the northern team. To commemorate that momentous year I will present a special Radio Kerry two hour special program next Monday 9th in which we will speak to players, supporter and others involved all those years ago. Jas Murphy of Kerins o Rahillys was the winning captain and huge controversy surrounded the omission of Paudie Sheehy who had been the appointed captain up until the final. A program certainly not to be missed. 

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