19 March 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Crokes crack Cross’s record
DARE I say it, but going on a comparison with the league games played so far, the club football final between Crossmaglen Rangers and Kilmacud Crokes provided a compelling argument in favour of retaining the old rules. It was a tough, physical game but with no nastiness and yet, had the new rules been applied, a good few players would have received their marching orders for yellow cards.
The final may also have marked the demise of Crossmaglen, undoubtedly the greatest club football side since this competition began, with 26 finals unbeaten in the record books.
Several of those who played on Tuesday, including Francie Bellew, will now retire and you just get the impression that the current side has reached the end of its journey. On the other hand, they have succeeded in bringing through new players and they will hardly be absent from the top table for long.
FOR this Crokes side it marks the culmination of several years of threatening to get there and a bridging of a 14-year gap since the club won the title in 1995. They are now one of the biggest clubs in the country, possibly the biggest in terms of playing members. And, while not always the most popular among their rivals in Dublin, their single-minded dedication to football and hurling has to be admired.
They were particularly impressive in defence, which raises the concern among hurling people that Ross O’Carroll might be enticed away from The Beautiful Game by Pat Gilroy. Hopefully not.
Mystics among us might also be tempted to read something into the fact that the last time Crokes won this, was also the last year that Dublin won the All-Ireland, although curiously there were no Crokes players on the ‘95 team.
In reality, only Paul Griffin would be considered a current first-choice player with both the Magees having had ample opportunities to tie down places over the years. That said, there are several younger players, including the O’Carrolls and Cian O’Sullivan, who put themselves into contention by their performances.
The match also constituted a pleasing exorcism for Ray Cosgrove, who came on in the second half and scored a point into the same goal as he famously missed the injury-time free that would have tied up Armagh in the 2002 semi-final.
THERE was to be no laying of ghosts for the Waterford hurlers of De La Salle.
In a final all too similar to the All-Ireland in September, they had no answer to an almost flawless display by Galway champions Portumna.
The game was, to all intents and purposes, over after 15 minutes and while De La Salle kept trying, the best they could hope for was respectability on the scoreboard and even that was not granted.
It was once again a day for the display of the talents of Joe Canning, although for himself it represented one of his more modest contributions, on the scoreboard from play at least. It has to be noted, though, that he played in a notably deeper position than is his wont, won some vital ball further out the field, and contributed some telling passes.
It is Portumna’s second in a row and third in four years and it will take a good team to beat them next year.