Kilmacud Crokes 2-12
Na Fianna 3-4
BY Daire Walsh
Kilmacud Crokes withstood a spirited second half fightback from Na Fianna at Parnell Park on Friday evening to retain their Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Football Championship crown.
Thanks in no small part to goals from Niamh Cotter and Mia Jennings – as well as a plethora of points by Eabha Rutledge – the Stillorgan side established an 11-point cushion at the midway stage in the action. A Laura Grendon-inspired Na Fianna did bring the gap down to three points after digging deep on the resumption, but Crokes ultimately held their nerve to make it back-to-back county titles.
5-10 to 3-1 winners at the expense of Clontarf at the semi-final stage of the competition nine days earlier, Na Fianna had a strong inter-county contingent at their disposal. Leah Caffrey, Hannah Tyrrell and Eilish O’Dowd were all starters on the Dublin team that defeated Kerry in the All-Ireland senior ladies football championship final at Croke Park on August 13, while Orla Martin and Emma Deeley were substitutes in the same game.
From a Kilmacud perspective, Aoife Kane and Lauren Magee were also key players for the Jackies this year and helped their club to defeat Thomas Davis on a score of 2-13 to 1-7 last Friday. They also have some former Dublin stars in their ranks such as Michelle Davoren, Rutledge and Molly Lamb, while Na Fianna’s Lucy Collins is another player to have donned the sky blue jersey in the past.
Whereas Michelle Davoren was stationed on the edge of the square for Crokes, her namesake Ailbhe Davoren – a Galway senior footballer – took up a position on the ‘40’ for the title holders. Following a neat link-up with the Tribeswoman inside the opening 60 seconds, the hard-working Michelle kicked a fine opening point for her side.
There was a clear determination amongst the Crokes players to hit the ground running and they opened up a considerable gap with just under three minutes gone on the clock. After racing through the heart of the Na Fianna defence, Magee released Cotter on goal and the Cork native fired to the net with clinical accuracy.
This was a dream start for Paddy O’Donoghue’s charges and had it not been for the outstretched arm of Na Fianna netminder Karen O’Connell, Magee’s midfield partner Grace Kos could have registered their second goal instead of a point in the sixth-minute.
A pointed free by Rutledge stretched Crokes further in front, before O’Connell came to the rescue of their opponents with an outstanding point-blank save from the raiding Ailbhe Davoren. Rutledge helped herself to 0-6 in their convincing win over Thomas Davis and went on to bolster her personal tally in this game with a brace of fine scores from play.
Na Fianna had found it difficult to settle during the opening quarter, but even though they lost Collins to injury, their challenge eventually came to life on 16 minutes. Full-forward Grendon had raised two green flags for the northsiders in their derby victory against Clontarf and fired home her third goal in just two games after finding a gap inside the Crokes rearguard.
This was the morale-boost that Gerry Donohoe’s side required and their skipper Aoife Caffrey followed up with a point – via an O’Dowd pass – that only marginally cleared the woodwork. They were beginning to pose significant problems for Crokes, but their southside counterparts subsequently weathered the storm with another two-point salvo courtesy of Rutledge.
Michelle Davoren fisted over a point after Cotter picked her out from a quick free and this duo were heavily involved in Crokes’ second major in first-half stoppage-time. After she once again was on the receiving end of a precise Cotter delivery, Davoren picked out Mia Jennings with a neat hand pass and she proceeded to drill a superb shot to the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
An excellent opening period for Crokes was rounded off by a routine Rutledge free to leave them 2-9 to 1-1 in the ascendancy at the interval.
Na Fianna needed a strong start to the second half to give themselves a fighting chance of forging a dramatic comeback and Grendon knocked over a free just three minutes after the restart. The dynamic number 14 continued to offer a potent attacking threat and she shook the net for a second time in the 39th-minute as she fielded the ball majestically in the air and clinically dispatched the ball to the net via the fingertips of Rachael Fleming.
While Crokes remained seven points to the good, the simultaneous losses of Jennings and Magee to yellow and red cards respectively left them with a substantial numerical deficiency either side of the third-quarter mark. Na Fianna also had their corner-back Sophie Ahern sin-binned on 47 minutes, but with first-half substitute Claire Kelly palming the ball to the net almost immediately, the Glasnevin outfit were firmly in the reckoning for top honours.
The gap was down to three with five minutes of normal remaining after Tyrrell opened her account from a free and while Cotter settled the Crokes nerves with an excellent point from a right-hand angle, Grendon immediately cancelled out her effort at the opposite end.
Yet Crokes were starting to find their rhythm again in attack and bagged quickfire points through Michelle Davoren and substitute Julia Buckley to leave them in the driving seat heading towards full-time.
Na Fianna did battle until the bitter end, but Kilmacud Crokes were not to be denied their second Dublin SFC triumph.