Crokes stunned as Longford side become legends

by Gazette Reporter
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St. Columba’s Mullinalaghta (Longford) 1-8
Kilmacud Crokes 1-6

Kilmacud Crokes were stunned by rural Longford club St Columba’s of Mullinalaghta in the Leinster senior club football final in Tullamore on Sunday afternoon, as the Dublin champions fell at Leinster’s final hurdle.

Crokes looked set to have seen off the Longford side, though slightly unconvincingly, when they led by three points with just four minutes left on the clock. In the low scoring contest, the Longford club hit 1-2 in the closing stages to turn the game on its head.

Most had Crokes as strong favourites, but they were harried and hustled by the Longford side, a club with around 100 adult players, and whose cornerback Conan Brady has been commuting from the UK to play for the past eight years. The Mullinalaghta side become the first side from Longford ever to win the Leinster title.

The game was very much in the tradition of tight December contests: marred slightly by harsh conditions, with key men like Dublin forward Paul Mannion (who failed to score from play) having quiet contests.

Things had seemed to be going very much according to the script when Pat Burke scored for Kilmacud inside the first five minutes, after Columba’s had taken an early lead. In a game characterised by great tackling from St Columba’s and ebbs and flows in the contest, Crokes could add only a couple of points – from a Mannion free and Callum Pearson – to Burke’s goal for the remainder of the half.

Rian Brady was the key man at up top for Mullinalaghta, though it was the midfield that did much of the damage against struggling Crokes. Brady, plus points from Donal McElligott and David McGivney had the teams level by half time, 1-2 to 0-5.

St Columba’s had their own fallow period, though, for a full half of the game. They failed to score from play between the 20th minute and the 50th. In the normal course of events, this would be more than enough to see Crokes out of sight, but the harrying and hastling in midfield had kept the favourites within reach.

Crokes had taken an element of control going into the middle of the second period, however, and Pearson, another Mannion free and Craig Dias had them a couple of points in front, Burke helping to maintain the gap with a fine point from a tight angle.

Questions can be asked of the Crokes strategy at the end, but perhaps picking holes if unfair in that it undermines the quality of St Columba’s efforts in the closing stages. Nevertheless, leading by a couple of points, rather than go for the jugular, the Dublin side threw the ball around and appeared to be looking to kill the game on the clock.

Columba’s won a game-changing penalty for a foul by Cian O’Sullivan on Aidan McElligott in the area. O’Sullivan was sent off for a second yellow card, while Nestor – who had saved a penalty in the semifinal late on – could do nothing to stop Gary Rogers from smashing home.

With Crokes now needing a point to save the game, instead, Columba’s got the ball from the next kick out, and McElligott upped the margin to two points, securing the contest in the closing stages at 1-8 to 1-6.

Crokes will see a missed opportunity, but for St Columba’s, the win in front of a crowd of 3,500 is easily the biggest in the club’s history.

They play Kerry’s Dr Crokes in the All Ireland semi final in the New Year.

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