Castleknock’s Shane Boland on the attack as a number of Kilmacud Crokes defenders close in. Picture: Niall O’Connell

A SLOW START eventually cost Castleknock on Friday night as Kilmacud Crokes just edged out last year’s Dublin Senior Football finalists, despite a late comeback from the Somerton side.
It had looked like plain sailing for Crokes in the early stages as they netted twice in the opening quarter of an hour to put Castleknock on the ropes.
But Ciaran Kilkenny’s side have proven a battle-hardened outfit recently and weren’t about to let their second ever run in the championship slip away easily.
Crokes strong start came courtesy of former Dublin man Pat Burke who got hold of a misdirected Mark Vaughan score to ripple the net. Vaughan had already put over a challenging point of his own from out wide, giving Crokes an early 1-1 to no score lead.
Paul Mannion was to do most of the subsequent damage and the All-Ireland winner showed his class when he ripped through the Castleknock defence at pace on 14 minutes to bash home into the roof of the net and have Crokes charging away.
Perhaps inevitably, possession-loving Castleknock hit back. It was a well-timed James Sherry leap and flick that got the team in blue and yellow back into the Parnell Park contest, as he beat the defence in leaping to meet a Kevin Kindlon point effort – heading wide – to flick it into the Crokes goal.
For all their early energy and bravado, Crokes were then hit with a few comeback points, too, and went in with only a single point lead at 2-2 to 1-4.
Seamus O’Carroll had Castleknock level straight after half-time and it soon became clear that nobody was going to run away with the contest, as Callum Pearson and Shane Boland exchanged scores.
Eventually, Mannion grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, playing a key role in winning a series of frees, three of which he then converted to pull Crokes away. Burke scored a point from play in the midst of them, too.
Castleknock started to edge back into the game, though, and they looked to have one last shot when Kilkenny slotted a confident free in the dying minutes to draw them back to within a point.
But there was to be no repeat of last year’s heroics for Castleknock. Instead, it was the traditional powerhouse Crokes who progress to the sharp end – and this year’s semi-finals – with the narrowest of victories, a 2-8 to 1-10 win under the floodlights.
The contest was the second Dublin Senior Football clash to be picked out and televised, by Eir Sport following on from the earlier, 6.45pm contest in which St Vincent’s comfortably overcame Sylvester’s, as the broadcaster continues to explore club level GAA.