The curtain came down on our All Ireland club odyssey in Croke Park today, but not how the experts had predicted, as we lay siege in the final quarter to the Kilmacud goal before bowing out on a scoreline of 1-14 to 0-14.
Kilmacud, last year’s beaten finalists and bolstered this year by All Star Shane Walsh were hot favourites but whilst they deservedly progressed their overriding emotion tonight must be relief at getting to another final.
The Dublin standard bearers led by two points at half time, 0-08 to 0-06 with the sides having been level at 0-03 each before a flurry of scores saw them extend their advantage to 4 points, 0-07 to 0-03 after 26 minutes; David Moran was lording midfield in a tour de force performance and we secured minors from Gavin O’Brien, Conor Hayes and Barry John to reduce the deficit to the two points. Our defence too was tested in the opening half but we stood firm with Cormac Coffey magnificent on Shane Walsh, holding him scoreless, and Shane Foley in goals equal to the best that was thrown at him with a fine save in the 21st minute from corner forward Hugh Kenny.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw Gavin O’Brien win the throw-in and a foul on him saw Jack reduce the deficit to the minimum when pointing the free. The next quarter saw Kilmacud draw seven points clear, 1-11 to 0-07 with the goal being the decisive score - unfortunately it came as a result of a Shane Walsh point effort dropping short, cannoning off the crossbar and ending up in the hands of corner forward Kenny whose low shot ended up in the net - two further points from wing back Jones left Kilmacud comfortable or so it seemed with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.
However, our heroes in blue refused to throw in the towel and with fresh legs in Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Ben Hanafin, Darragh O’Connor, Chucky and Gazza, we found a new lease of life; David’s aerial dominance continued, our forwards continued to probe and our defence was nothing if not defiant.
We were now in the ascendancy and the scores flowed - Jack was terrific in this period, Gazza fired over from range and suddenly it was a one score game - there were howls of disbelief from the Strand Road faithful when both Jack and Barry John had what looked legitimate claims for frees waved aside - It should be noted that when it came to frees, we were more sinned against than sinning – by rough estimation, getting fouled about four times more often.
The final act saw a long range delivery from Jack flicked goalwards by David but a massed Kilmacud defence gleefully gathered on the line and the clearance, though retrieved by Jack, saw referee Cullen bring proceedings to a halt.
Today marks the end of our senior club campaign but we salute our team and management for the many hours of joy they have given us over the past months, from Killarney to Mallow and Croke Park - they have put in the hours and the sacrifices - we are indebted to them and their families and thank them for their endeavour, honesty and commitment.