Another Munster title win, a star-studded squad and coping with the lack of action until spring 2019

THE CONTRAST WAS stark.

When the Munster club football final ended yesterday, the Dr Crokes reaction was noticeably muted. They were provincial champions and glad of their latest success but there was no great outpouring of emotion.

It was a marked change from the hurling equivalent the previous Sunday in Munster, a seismic afternoon for Ballygunner. The Waterford club’s players were visibly moved by their success after a 17-year wait and a succession of near misses, speaking about the transformative and life-changing effect this win would have on them.

For Dr Crokes yesterday was a fifth Munster triumph since 2011. The players were soon ushered into their dressing-room at the Gaelic Grounds. Job done in Munster, a new national challenge is on the horizon.

They was still a sense of satisfaction that they reversed their result at this stage a year ago against Nemo Rangers.

“I made no bones about it, this time last year we were a tired team we had no excuses whatsoever we were complacent and didn’t handle our business right,” said Dr Crokes selector Niall O’Callaghan.

“But we did handle our business right this year, fellas are really focused and today it’s a lot different than this time last year coming out of Cork with our tails between our legs deservedly.

A dejected Kieran O’Leary after the 2017 Munster club final.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It gives us something to work on but we have to train for 11 or 12 weeks for one game. In the next two weeks including this game, we have four championship games in two weeks and that’s the way it is for us. We’ll enjoy tonight, then focus on next Sunday’s county league final.”

Yesterday’s victory was another example of the scoring power Dr Crokes possess. They shot 1-21 to bring their tally across three games in Munster and the quality of substitutes they have been able to introduce was telling.

“It is our best squad,” says O’Callaghan.

“I don’t want to insult any of the players who have gone before us, we represented them well but it is, they are just a great bunch of young fellas. There was UCC v IT in a football match a few weeks ago and Mark O’Shea was one of the standout players.

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“He hasn’t played for Kerry but he’s one of the best players we have in training and is giving our full-back Michael Moloney loads of it every night. So we are hoping the transition will be easier for Crokes when the older fellas start stepping away because these fellas are chomping at the bit to get in there.

“There are some fellas there like David Naughten there, he started our first championship game back in August but he hasn’t had a kick since and that’s very hard. He’s on the Kerry U20 (side), he’s a Kerry minor and has All-Irelands coming out his back pocket and this is the first chance we have to give him a game.

“All those fellas need game time and the next few weeks will be a chance to give these fellas a game.”

David Naughten in action for Kerry in the 2016 All-Ireland minor final.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The victory propels Dr Crokes into an All-Ireland semi-final next spring against Dublin’s Kilmacud Crokes and Longford’s Mullinalaghta. It’s their fifth experience of negotiating the long lay-off over the Christmas period and the 2017 tie with Corofin was the first last four win for this group.

“You just don’t now how to really manage it properly,” admits O’Callaghan.

“Last time alright we trained like dogs over Christmas and we trained all the time but we have a situation where fellas are getting married, going on honeymoon, fellas who need a break and that all comes into it.

“We would love to be playing a semi next week because we are feeling good and winning. I’d say everyone is the same. It’s hard.

“You can’t get challenge games, all you’re getting is inter-county teams and they are only going to send out the reserve players so its hard to get good challenge games you know.

“You have to let them taper down but you have to hit the right note in 11 weeks time.”

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