It's the strife of Bryan for the Saints as the Crokes nick it

acornlife.jpgAcorn Life County U-21 Football Championship Final
Dr Crokes 2-9 St Kieran's 1-11
By Murt Murphy for kerrygaa.ie
Winston Churchill once said "Never give in... never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force... never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

After the dramatic conclusion to this Acorn Life Co U-21 Football Championship Final, played at the Austin Stack Park on Wednesday evening, I am convinced that if Churchill had played football, he would have been a Crokes full back because Crokes just never give in, never give up and keep playing to the bitter end.
That has been there way since Adam was a boy, and that is still the way, all Crokes teams play to this very day- if you leave the door slightly ajar, they will take full advantage.

Just picture the scene at the Austin Stack Park on Wednesday night with just five minutes to go and Dr Crokes were trailing a fine St Kieran's side 1-10 to 1-6, and while the Fat Lady might not have been singing, she was exercising her vocal cords as St Kieran's appeared set for a famous win.

But then drama - St Kieran's tall fullback, Michael Brosnan, body checks a Crokes player in front of the referee Peter Lyons and he is shown a second yellow and has to go off as St Kieran's are down to fourteen.

Crokes suddenly sense a weakness and like tigers, they pounce with intensity but with composure.

u21aweb.jpgKieran Ward surges up the field, like any good general would, rousing his troops and he is fouled - Daithi Casey closes the gap to three.
Suddenly St Kiernan's begin to doubt as Crokes substitute Mark Egan kicks a fine point.

However with the Hickey brothers and Edmund Walsh to the fore St Kieran's respond in kind with Hickey and Philip O'Connor setting up Eoin O'Siochru after a patient build up for a fine point. So the lead is three again and St Kieran's supporters are in full voice, dreaming the dream.

However Crokes are now in full attacking mode with every player committed to going forward and Chris Brady slips the ball to Bryan O'Shea, on the wing and he floats over a trademark point.

St Kieran's are now rattled; with one man less to ward off the attacking waves of the Crokes, Bryan O'Shea crucially kicked a wide from a difficult angle as the clock ticked towards the sixty minute mark.

Two points and possession as St Kieran's mounted an attack but a player stepped out over the line and Crokes had possession back. Then more drama as a Crokes player gets a yellow for an off the ball incident,  and the St Kieran's crowd roar at the match official to throw the ball up.

Correctly, he refuses (as the ball was dead when the incident happened) and the side line ball is driven deep into enemy territory. Mark Egan gets possession from a team mate, and plays Chris Lawlor through and when he slips the ball across the face of the goal - Bryan O'Shea finishes to the St Kieran's net and suddenly Crokes are in front and the St Kieran's players are stunned - cant quite believe what has happened - like the woman who was looking forward to showing off her freshly baked tart - only to know her fate when she saw the smoke coming from the oven!

Still, St Kieran's had one last change of forcing extra time, as the excellent Thomas Hickey got possession left of centre, but his effort for the equalizer drifted wide right and when the ball was kicked out, referee Peter Lyons brought this thriller to an end.

Credit the Crokes for never giving up, but huge sympathy for St Kieran's who will feel that they had victory stolen from their grasp.

But, it was not a surprise nor should it have been to St Kieran's or to anybody who knows the Crokes way, to think that they would give up and not fight to the bitter end.

Just look at the history of this team in the Championship- they don't do panic or wide margined wins- against Laune Rangers, victory with a last minute point. Then against Kerins O'Rahillys, they trailed by seven late on, and then by two three minutes into injury time. Yet they win, a last gasp penalty and Chris Brady planted the spot kick in the net - another one point win.
Then, in the semi final- they met Kilcummin/Rathmore and having lost a decent lead - they fell a point behind with less than five to go. But enter Crokes own superhero - Bryan O'Shea to rattle over two points and this time they won by the wide margin of two points.

u21bweb.jpgTo reach the final in such a manner would suggest that their name was on the cup this year and on Wednesday night it was Bryan O'Shea again, with a late 1-1 that rescued the day - surely the Captain America of the team!!

Dr Crokes end that twenty five year famine at this grade and full marks to two great sides that played the game hard but fair all through.

If the Crokes are celebrating a great win, then spare a thought for St Kieran's, and players like goalkeeper Shane O'Leary, defenders Padraig Reidy, Mike Finnegan and Maurice Hickey, midfielders Edmund and James Walsh and attackers Philip O'Connor, Mike McCarthy, Thomas Hickey and Eoin O'Siochru who did not deserve to be on the losing side.

But that is the nature of sport and it's never over until it's over, and I am sure that St Kieran's will learn from this galling defeat and be back.

However full marks to the Crokes who may not have too many stars , other than their U-21 midfield pairing of Daithi Casey and David O'Leary, but have team of very talented footballers , all comfortable on the ball and superbly led by Kieran Ward from centre back, they proved to be masters.
In fact, on reflection if Chris Brady had not been denied by the Shane O'Leary on three occasions in the opening half, then it might never have come down to that dramatic finish.
The Play
Crokes had the better of the opening half exchanges, with Chris Brady getting an 11th minute goal, but he was denied on three other occasions by superb saves by St Kieran's keeper Shane O'Leary.

u21cweb.jpgTwo Edmund Walsh points, and two from wing back Maurice Hickey had kept St Kieran's in touch but Crokes thanks to points from Casey ( f), Brady ( f), Keith O'Leary and Bryan O'Shea were that bit sharper going forward.

St Kieran's were losing the ball in attack in that opening half and unforced errors and turnovers was to cost them dear as Crokes led 1-4 to 0-5 at half time.
This well contested final appeared to have swung in St Kieran's favour, thanks to a superb second half comeback, inspired by the Walsh brothers Edmond and James at midfield, as they wiped out a two point half time deficit ( 1-4 to 0-5) to power four points clear 1-10 to 1-6 with just ten minutes left.
St Kieran's took over completely in the third quarter, with a string of points from Shane O'Reilly, Philip O'Connor, James Walsh, Padraig Dignan. However two points from the boot of Chris Brady saw the sides on level terms (1-6 to 0-9) after forty minutes.

Then with the Walsh brothers and Thomas Hickey driving them forward, St Kieran's struck for a crucial goal in the 42nd minute, when Eoin O'Siochru finished a Hickey pass to the Crokes net and O'Siochru then added a quick point as St Kieran's moved four clear.
However two clever substitutions by the Crokes, saw Mark Egan come on a kick a point, while Daithi Casey converted a free, but O'Siochru restored St Kieran's three point advantage with a fine 56th minute point.


However in typical Crokes fashion, they never gave up and staged that dramatic comeback as described above that saw the Killarney kingpins home in front and left St Kieran's players devastated as they lost out so close to the finishing line!


Acorn Life Man of the Match

Edmund Walsh (St Kieran's)
It might be scant consolation but the Walsh brothers and Hickey brothers stood out in this game and Edmund just got the nod for his midfield display for St Kieran's and if he keeps playing like this, himself and brother James could yet play senior for Kerry, possibly together!


Scorers:
Dr Crokes
C Brady 1-3 ( 0-1 free), B O'Shea 1-2, D Casey 0-2 ( frees), K O'Leary and M Egan 0-1 each

St Kieran's
E O'Siochru 1-2, E Walsh 0-2 ( 0-1 free), M Hickey 0-2, J Walsh, P O'Connor, S O'Reilly, T Hickey and P Dignan 0-1 each

Teams:
Dr Crokes
K Flynn, S Lavery, P J Lawlor, S Coppinger, C Fitzgerald, K Ward, C O'Neill, D Casey, D O'Leary, B Falvey, C Brady, K O'Leary, G O'Shea, T J Cronin, B O'Shea
Subs:
S O'Neill for B Falvey ( inj 10), C Lawlor for S O'Neill ( 50), M Egan for S Coppinger ( 50)


St Kieran's
S O'Leary ( Currow), M Galvin ( Ballymac), M Brosnan ( Knocknagoshel), P Reidy ( Knocknagoshel), M Finnegan ( Brosna), E Kiely ( Brosna), M Hickey ( Desmonds), E Walsh ( Knocknagoshel), J Walsh ( Knocknagoshel), P O'Connor ( Cordal), M Shanahan ( Ballymac), S O'Reilly ( Ballymac), T Hickey ( Desmonds), M McCarthy ( Currow), E O'Siochru ( Ballymac)

Subs:
P Dignan (Cordal) for M Shanahan (inj 22), A Barry (Brosna) for S O'Reilly (47)

Referee: P Lyons (Cromane)