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close call Kilcoo crowned All-Ireland champions following dramatic extra-time goal against Kilmacud Crokes

Kilcoo 2-8 Kilmacud Crokes 0-13

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Shane Horan of Kilmacud Crokes is tackled by Dylan Ward of Kilcoo

Shane Horan of Kilmacud Crokes is tackled by Dylan Ward of Kilcoo

Shane Horan of Kilmacud Crokes is tackled by Dylan Ward of Kilcoo

KILCOO are All-Ireland club football champions after an extraordinary victory over Kilmacud Crokes tonight in Croke Park.

A minute into injury time in the second half of extra-time, Jerome Johnston slammed home a goal from close range, a score that capped a remarkable six-point turnaround in a tense and cagey game.

It meant Kilcoo avoided the intense heartache of losing successive All-Ireland finals.

Beaten by Corofin after extra-time two years ago, Mickey Moran's team seemed beaten a couple of times here but two impeccably-timed goals saw them trade despair for ecstasy.

All the late drama was at complete odds with the earlier passages.

This game seemed to be winding down to a surprisingly comfortable Kilmacud Crokes win until a bizarre second half goal, the second of the day into the Hill 16 net after Harry Ruddle’s extraordinary winner for Ballygunner in the hurling final.

At 0-9 to 0-4, Crokes had the game more or less where they wanted, landing most of the early heavy blows. They were jabbing their way to the final bell.

And then a ’45 taken by Kilcoo Niall Kane ended up in the net.

The kick itself was undercooked, but it changed course slightly at the last second when Ross McGowan wafted a hand at it and swerved into the net.

Against all earlier suggestions, we had ourselves a game.

Only minutes earlier, Crokes almost killed it completely with a slick move that cut ribbons from the Kilcoo defence but a brilliant deflection from Micéal Rooney at full stretch stopped Craig Dias from tapping in a goal.

In all, Crokes scored just two points in the second half, a complete turnaround from the first when they dominated.

In that period, Kilcoo appeared uncomfortable with the terms of engagement. Their customary flintiness, so evident in Ulster and the All-Ireland semi-final against St. Finbarr’s seemed feeble resistance to Crokes’ sheer energy.

Young, vibrant, very clearly confident in their own game plan, Kilmacud Crokes literally gave Kilcoo nothing easy in that first half.

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They pressed them everywhere. Hounded them backwards and into corners.

No kick-out went uncontested. Every run was impeded.

As a result, Kilcoo’s first half productivity was on the floor.

They had nine shots in the first half, yielding seven wides and just two points.

Crokes meanwhile, gave off the impression of a team selecting moves from a playbook.

When Kilcoo retreated en masse, they cradled possession and ran arcs around the ‘D’ until such time as a sufficient gap for a shot appeared.

Whenever the Down champions went man-to-man on the kick-out, as they tried each time, Ferris’ restarts generally hit their intended receiver and Crokes dropped into gear, kicking direct and bringing their multi-faceted forward line into play.

Of the five points Crokes scored from play in the first half, most were dispatched without any suffocating pressure on the kick.

In such circumstances, a goal would have been a precious commodity and Kilcoo came closest to scoring one in the first half.

Eugene Branagan won a rare break from one of Kilmacud’s kick-outs and carried towards goal, playing a one-two with Ceilum Doherty before squaring to Conor Laverty, just outside the small square.

What Laverty had in proximity to goal, however, he lacked in a clear sight of the Crokes net, with two defenders and Ferris in his way.

None of them bought the dummy and Ferris got down quickly to Laverty’s shot.

In the Leinster final, Crokes kept Naas scoreless for the entire second half, but Kilcoo were quick to claim the initiative and forced two exceptionally cagey periods of extra-time.

Substitute Cian O’Connor appeared to put Crokes safe, two points up with the final seconds of extra-time remaining, but from a late break, Johnston was on hand to force home a goal and send Kilcoo into raptures.

SCORERS – Kilcoo: P Devlin 0-4 (3f), J Johnston 1-1, R McGowan (O.G.) 1-0, C Laverty 0-2, A Morgan 0-1.

Kilmacud Crokes: C O’Connor o-3 (2f), C Dias, D Mullen (1m), S Horan 0-2 each, A McGowan, T Fox (f), S Cunningham (m), C Pearson 0-1 each.

KILCOO: N Kane; N Branagan, R McEvoy, A Branagan; M Rooney, D Branagan, E Branagan; D Ward, A Morgan; C Doherty, J Johnston, S Johnston; C Laverty, R Johnston, P Devlin. Subs: A Morgan for R Johnston (35), A Branagan for A Morgan (47), R Johnston for S Johnston (58), S Johnston for Rooney (70), J Clarke for Doherty (77)

KILMACUD CROKES: C Ferris; D O’Brien, R McGowan, M Mullin; C O’Shea, R O’Carroll, A McGowan; B Shovlin, C Dias; A Jones, D Mullen, S Horan; H Kenny, T Fox, S Cunningham. Subs: C O’Connor for Fox (42), C Casey for Horan (54), C Pearson for Kenny (54), A Quinn for Jones (54), C Kinsella for Dias (60), T Clancy for Mullin (e-t), A Jones for R McGowan (76), M O’Leary for Cunningham (70), Horan for Mullen (70)

REF: S Hurson (Tyrone)

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