Defending All-Ireland champs Crokes see off Naas to claim third Leinster crown  in a row

by Aaron Dunne
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Naas (Kildare) 0-10

Kilmacud Crokes 1-14

Kilmacud Crokes claimed their third successive AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship title when overcoming Naas by seven points at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.

The final score fails to reflect the tightness of the exchanges with Crokes leading by the slimmest of margins by the 49th minute but a composed conclusion from the champions saw them finish on the front foot.

The gloss was provided by Shane Walsh’s counter-attacking goal deep into added time and fittingly it was the Galway star that had the final word, given the influence that he exerted for a Kilmacud side that were far from their fluent best.

Once again, the victory could be attributed to their experience of the big occasion and their uncanny ability to come through sticky situations, which has been a hallmark of their unprecedented recent success.

2 December 2023; Craig Dias of Kilmacud Crokes celebrates his side’s victory with his daughter Lola after the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship final match between Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin, and Naas, Kildare, at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen Marken/Sportsfile

Both teams were fairly quick out of the blocks with Naas opening the scoring through an excellent Dermot Hanafin point in the 3rd minute with Crokes opening their own account courtesy of a Shane Walsh free three minutes later.

Shane Horan edged the holders back in front in the 7th minute but the influential Alex Beirne restored parity two minutes later with the first of his three scores in the opening half.

Both teams enjoyed sporadic periods of control as Kilmacud pushed two points clear through Craig Dias and Walsh only for Beirne to narrowly fire over the crossbar at the other end to leave the contest delicately poised.

Paul Mannion and Darragh Kirwan exchanged frees to leave Crokes 0-5 to 0-4 ahead by the end of the first quarter with the latter bringing the teams level in the 18th minute with a fine point.

It was at this point that Kilmacud began to enjoy another brief period of dominance, as Walsh popped over two points in quick succession before Horan pushed his team three clear by the 26th minute.

Beirne’s driving runs yielded another impressive score for Naas soon after and while Dara Mullin jinked through for a smart point of his own, Kirwan finished the half with another fine effort to trim his team’s deficit to just two points (0-9 to 0-7) by half-time.

Kilmacud Crokes celebrate with the Leinster SFC trophy (main) and (inset right) captain Shane Cunningham oand kitman Vinny Patterson lift the Sean McCabe cup after the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship final win over Kildare’s Naas

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