Leinster Semi Final - Crokes v Portlaoise

Leinster Semi Final - Crokes v Portlaoise


(Match Report by Diarmuid Coogan.)

Kilmacud Crokes played out a very entertaining semi-final today in Parnell Park on a perfect day for football.

Crokes started out defending the “Church End”. Portlaoise won possession from the throw in and worked the ball to former Laois full forward Brian “Bruno” McCormack who turned and shot the first of several wides in what was to be a frustrating day for him.

In the 2nd minute, Crokes centre back Cillian O’Shea took a pass from Cian O’Sullivan in his own half and ran hard at the Portlaoise defence before offloading to corner forward Callum Pearson on the “D” and Pearson tapped over to open the scoring. (0-1 to 0-0)


Portlaoise should have equalised from the kick out but midfielder Ciarán McEvoy’s shot dipped dangerously on the edge of the square and full back Andy McGowan made a great high catch under pressure before passing to O’Sullivan on the right who played a “1-2” with wing back Ross McGowan before finding Pearson on his 65 metre line; Pearson turned Portlaoise centre back Cahir Healy inside out before being fouled just inside the Laois 65; Pearson quickly kicked a clever ball into full forward Dara Mullin who had to go to ground to gather the ball with Portlaoise corner back coming down on top of him. However Mullin showed the reflexes of a cat to spring back to his feet and had a clear run at the goal before cleverly “dummying” Laois county goalie Graham Brody and finishing to the net. Although this was in the 3rd minute, it turned out to be the move of the match for Crokes!! ( 1-1 to 0-0)

Portlaoise won the kick out and drove deep into Crokes territory where Bruno McCormick put midfielder Kieran Lillis clear on the 14 line with only Crokes David Nestor to beat. Nestor had read the danger and advanced out before spreading himself brilliantly to block Lillis’ shot.

In the 5th minute Portlaoise and Laois ½ forward Gareth Dillon started a move in his own half on the left and fed fellow county centre half forward Conor Boyle who carried  before giving back to Dillon on the left of the Crokes “D”. Dillon stepped inside 2 Crokes defenders and hit a ferocious shot which beat Nestor only for the covering Ross McGowan to make a great save but the shot was “too hot to hold” and Dillon followed up to finish the rebound to the net. McGowan to his great credit almost managed to save that as well! (1-1 to 1-0)

Shortly after Dublin star Paul Mannion showed his pace on the right before passing to Pearson in a central position and Pearson swung the ball over the bar from 20 metres. (1-2 to 1-0)

Crokes joint captain Craig Dias won the kick out and fed left half forward Shane Horan who drove at the heart of the defence before offloading to the experienced Pat Burke on the right of the “large parallelogram”; Burke used all his strength to ride a few heavy challenges before unleashing a shot as he was falling and Brody was relieved to deflect it over for another Crokes point  after 6 minutes. (1-3 to 1-0)

On 7 minutes Paul Mannion uncharacteristically put a free wide on the edge of the “D” but he made amends a minute later when he struck over a fine point following a great run by right half back Cian O’Connor. (1-4 to 1-0)

At this stage it was all Crokes and after winning the kick out they “recycled” the ball patiently before corner back Liam Flatman played a great ball to Dias in space; the athletic Dias carried the ball at speed before slotting it over to extend the lead on 9 minutes. (1-5 to 1-0)

Portlaoise almost were in on goal following a quickly taken free but Nestor closed down the space on left half back David Holland who was forced to pass to Bruno McCormick who had to settle for a point. (1-5 to 1-1)

In the 13th minute, Crokes half forward Shane Cunningham delivered a ball into Horan just inside the 45 on the right and Horan evaded several defenders before striking a fine individual point with his left foot from 20 metres. (1-6 to 1-1)

Less than a minute later,  Kieran Lillis hit a great point from 40 metres to keep his side in touch. (1-6 to 1-2)

Nestor kicked out short to Andy McGowan who embarked on a trade mark run up the pitch on the left before passing right to Mullin who calmly slotted over from 20 metres in front of goal.(1-7 to 1-2)

On 16 minutes, Nestor played a short kick out to Cian O’Sullivan on the edge of the D but he was quickly swarmed by 3 Portlaoise players and former Laois right corner forward Paul Cahillane gathered the loose ball and skillfully placed it in the left corner of the net to bring his side right back into the match. (1-7 to 2-2)

However, Crokes dusted themselves down and Nestor found O’Shea from the kick out and he passed to Ross McGowan who made a great relieving run before passing to Cunningham on the far 45; Cunningham fed Pearson who showed great pace and skill, running to the right but then turned left and soled with his right foot before striking a great point with his left from just inside the D. (1-8 to 2-2)

On 18 minutes, Mannion won a free on the right and quickly delivered the ball into Mullin in the centre and he fed Burke who hit another fine point from just to the right of the posts. (1-9 to 2-2)

In contrast to Crokes’ efficient point taking, Portlaoise were racking up a lot of wides including 2 45’s from goalkeeper Brody.

From one such wide in the 20th minute, Nestor kicked out to O’Shea on the right and he delivered a long accurate kick to Shane Horan on ½ way who turned and played a 15 metre kick pass into midfielder Conor Casey who immediately hand passed to Cian O’Connor who came onto the ball like a train inside the 45 before despatching a fine point with maximum efficiency – a great example of letting the ball do the work!! (1-10 to 2-2)

On 23 minutes Crokes really could have put daylight between themselves and Portlaoise;  following a great run by Cunningham on the right, Mullin ran at the heart of the defence and it was like the parting of the waves as he ended up with a “one on one” with Brody. He placed the ball to the goalie’s right but Brody dived low to make a brilliant save and a desperate “scramble” defence managed to deny Dias in finishing the rebound!

A minute later Portlaoise corner forward Ricky Maher hit a great point from 40 metres. (1-10 to 2-3)

On 28 minutes, Cahillane finished off a great attack with a point from the right. (1-10 to 2-4)

A minute later Cahillane had a free from the right but put it wide, bringing Potlaoise’s tally of wides to 9 in the 1st half.

In the 2nd minute of injury time, Pat Burke’s shot from the right appeared to be drifting left and wide but Horan jumped brilliantly to knock the ball back down to Mannion who drilled it over to end a 12 minute scoring famine for Crokes!! (1-11 to 2-4)

Undaunted, Portlaoise worked the ball down the pitch and powerful midfielder Ciarán McEvoy carried deep into Crokes territory before feeding Conor Boyle who kicked a great point just inside the D. Referee David Coldrick sounded the half time whistle with the match finely balanced.

2nd HALF.

Aided by the breeze, Crokes didn’t take long to get going in the 2nd half and after 2 minutes, O’Sullivan swept out of defence before kicking long to Dias who was in acres of space. Dias carried before passing to Mannion to the left on the 20 metre line and he struck over with his trusted left foot. (1-12 to 2-5)

6 minutes into the half, Portlaoise left half forward Brian Glynn fisted over from the right. (1-12 to 2-6)

2minutes later Pearson carried in from the left corner who found Mullin in front of goal, Mullin spotted Brody off his line and tried to “chip” him but Brody just about managed to deflect it over. (1-13 to 2-6)

Following good work by Cahir Healy, Cahillane showed great skill to score a point from the left(1-13 to 2-7) and Lillis was almost in for a goal only for another great save by Nestor. The referee was playing advantage and brought it back for a free on the edge of the square which Cahillane tapped over to make it a 2 point game. (1-13 to 2-8)

Portlaoise could have closed the gap further but a loose cross field kick was gathered by Crokes and Andy McGowan took off at pace before being “clothes lined” by Kieran Lillis who was fortunate to get a yellow card on the Portlaoise 65. From the resultant free Cillian O’Shea and Cian O’Connor combined well to win a free just to the right of the goal and Mannion again did the honours! (1-14 to 2-8)


With 15 minutes gone in the half, Crokes looked relatively comfortable but from the kick out Portlaoise played some very good “heads up” football before sub Craig Rogers took a pass at pace inside the D and was through on goal and he skilfully drove the ball under the advancing Nestor to level the scores for the 1sttime since the 2nd minute!!(1-14 to 3-08)

However, Crokes didn’t panic and Nestor found O’Sullivan on the right touchline on the 20 metre line ; O’Sullivan showed all of his experience and skill to evade his man before carrying to the 45 and kicking inside to the centre; midfielder Conor Casey carried on the move before passing left to Mannion who was fouled. Mannion took a bad knock to his ankle and wisely left the free to Pat Burke to restore the lead on 49 minutes. (1-15 to 3-08)

A minute later Flatman drove at the defence and won a free on the edge of the D. Mannion, having recovered from his previous knock, calmly slotted over to make it a 2 point game.

At this stage Brody was coming out the field to support the Portlaoise attack and after one such foray by him, Cian O’Sullivan did very well to dispossess him around the 65 on the right and force him into a foul. From this free Crokes worked the ball up the field where Andy McGowan took the ball inside the 45 and spun out of a tackle before hitting a great point from 20 metres on the right. (1-17 to 3-08)

With less than 5 minutes of normal time left, Crokes once again looked to be in complete control. Mannion almost added the insurance point a minute later but was inches wide.

Portlaoise threw everything at Crokes in the final few minutes but the Crokes defence looked very comfortable and when Lillis drove a speculative shot wide in the 59th minute, it really looked as if they’d run out of ideas.

From the kick out, Nestor found sub Tom Fox on the left and he passed to O’Sullivan who looked to give a return pass but hadn’t accounted for Lillis who made amends for his previous wide with a great interception and drove towards the  Crokes goal before floating in a kick which Nestor easily dealt with.

However, the referee awarded a penalty for a foul on the edge of the square on Portlaoise sub Scott Lawless and blackcarded Crokes sub Aidan Jones.


With the game now in injury time, Craig Rogers hit a powerful shot to Nestor’s right but he dived brilliantly to deflect the ball  for a 45. From the 45, Portlaoise dropped a dangerous ball into the square but Nestor claimed it cleanly and the ball was eventually cleared downfield.

That really was Portaloise’s best opportunity to rescue the game as Crokes managed to absorb all attacks in the 6 minutes of injury time although they picked up further black cards to Cian O’Connor and Craig Dias.

On 65 minutes, Mannion was back on the edge of his own square to punch out a high ball and the Crokes faithful were relieved to see sub Stephen Williams emerging with the ball with 3 Portlaoise players dragging out of him. Flatman kicked the resultant free down to the omnipresent Mannion who was now on half way and they played “keep ball” in working the ball back to Nestor who fittingly played the final ball of the game as the full time whistle sounded.

For Portlaoise, it was yet another close defeat to Dublin Opposition in the Leinster Championship – for Crokes it was a great attacking performance with plenty of room for improvement and their 1st leinster Final in 8 years!


Crokes Full back Andy McGowan: “ We knew that Portlaoise would throw the sink at us today and we really worked hard in training to deal with that. While we made a few mistakes out there, we kept at it all the time and I’m just happy that we pulled through in the end”.

Crokes midfielder Craig Dias:” There were times today when our backs were firmly to the wall but we kept calm. I thought our players showed great leadership after Portlaoise got the equalising goal to put ourselves back into the lead. Our work rate showed at the end of the game”.

SCORERS – Kilmacud Crokes: D Mullin 1-2, P Mannion 0-5 (2f), P Burke (1f), C Pearson 0-3 each, C O’Connor, C Dias, S Horan 0-1 each. Portlaoise: P Cahillane 1-3 (0-1f), G Dillon, C Rogers 1-0 each, B Glynn, C Boyle, B McCormack, R Maher 0-1 each.

KILMACUD CROKES: D Nestor; L Flatman, A McGowan, R McGowan; C O’Connor, C O’Shea, C O’Sullivan; C Dias, C Casey; S Cunningham, S Horan, C Pearson; P Burke, D Mullin, P Mannion. Subs: A Jones for R McGowan (36 inj), K Dyas for Horan (47), T Fox for Cunningham (55), S Williams for Mullin (62), R Ryan for Jones (62 black card)

PORTLAOISE: G Brody; F Flanagan, C Finn, D Seale; C Finn, C Healy, D Holland; C McEvoy, K Lillis; G Dillon, C Boyle, B Glynn; P Cahillane, B McCormack, R Maher. Subs: C Rogers for Maher (36), S Lawless for McCormack (47), A Rafter for Glynn (55), C Finn for Holland (58)

REF: D Coldrick (Meath

Click here to view post match interview with Pat Burke and Johnny Magee

Click on the links below for media reports: 

Irish Times 

Irish Independent 

RTE Sport

Dublin GAA

Photos below from Darragh Hickey and Frances Mullin