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‘Last year was one of the toughest I’ve ever had’ – Crookes keeper Conor Ferris saves the day in ultimate redemption

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Kilmacud Crokes 1-11, The Glen 1-9

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In his final training session on Thursday night, Kilmacud Crokes manager Robbie Brennan told his team that their goalkeeper Conor Ferris would win them the All-Ireland club football title.

At half-time, as they held on to a one-point lead, he reiterated his prediction that their No. 1 would be their No. 1.

Ferris was seen as one of the men to fall last February when Crookes effectively stripped him of an All-Ireland title at the death, his stray clearance triggering the move that saw Hill 16 end Jerome Johnson scored the winning goal.

Brennan had a sixth sense about Ferris, however, 12 months on and sure enough, the moment it came was redemption, his diving save to deny Connor Glass at the same end of Croke Park, while at the same defending a two-point lead with time remaining. You couldn’t make it up!

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Glass had found himself behind cover as a speculative ball had fallen favorably to him, his response to stab him lacked power but still elicited a considerable response from Ferris, who had earlier hit Glenn substitute Stevie O’Hara. was denied from close range.

“There is something to it (Crookes staying dangerously at the end of the game), why it is happening but I told the boys at the team meeting on Thursday that Connor would win us the All-Ireland,” Brennan revealed. “I said it again at half-time. I knew it, because Glenn would probably be chasing goals to beat us. He’s a brilliant shot-stopper (who) would come into play.

Ferris’ save came at the cost of a ’45 which prevented Crookes bringing in two substitutes, Connor Casey and Tom Fox for Dara Mullin and Paul Mannion, late call-ups for their first game since August. But Mullin did not back down and as the ’45 was being taken he could be seen defending his goal line, no doubt fresh in his mind the memory of his clearance work against Kerins O’Rahilly. is important. His presence meant that there were 16 Kilmacud players on the field and opened up the possibility of an objection that Glen manager Malachy O’Rourke later shrugged off.

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For Crokes to come back after losing the final the previous year and win an All-Ireland title is a feat rarely achieved in the club game.

Nemo Rangers did so in 2003 after losing the previous two finals, and of course Kilcoo did so last year after losing to Corofin in 2002. But Crookes’ defeat was more difficult than that. And facing the climb was tough.

“Last year was one of the toughest I’ve ever had,” Ferris said. “I said to Baggio (Brennan) a few months later, ‘Where’s my silver medal.’ I want to keep it and keep it on the mantelpiece so I can look at it every day and be inspired to come back and go for another one.

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Brennan admitted that he should have had a “break” last year. “It’s not that we lost but how we lost. It should have broken us as a group and the management but it didn’t. As the build to the championship started, we took a bit of strength from that because it was going to be weeks and months.” It’s such a good margin. We could be sitting here losing again,” he said.

At half-time, he also channeled his inner Joe Curran, took his silver medal from the previous year and hung it from the dressing-room wall, as did the then Armagh manager at half-time with his 1977 runners-up plaque Was. 2002 All-Ireland Final.

“I was wondering when to take them out. I took them off the wall at half time and said, ‘If you want them you can have them’,” Brennan said.

After trailing 1-3 to 0-1 in the 15th minute they had to be patient, with Danny Toulon’s quick-fire goal for the Glen after a pass from Jack Doherty giving them some encouragement. But Glenn didn’t capitalize on it enough and backed away, hoping to catch Croix on the break.

The crocs were tentative, last year and even the semi finals probably weighed on them. But they settled down and Mullin and Dan O’Brien were particularly influential in this period.

A few moments changed the dynamic its way. First young full-back Theo Clancy’s shocking challenge on Michael Warnock sent a determined message and then Shane Walsh’s 16th-minute penalty conversion brought relief and the game felt different after captain Shane Cunningham was brought down.

But Kilmacud was not even taking advantage of their dominance and left the score behind. Manion clearly lacked sharpness in the match as he posted two wides and then hit one post which he would have scored regularly before his injury last September that kept him out for nearly four months.

Brennan acknowledged that Mannion’s recall was a “huge, huge gamble” because he had done “nothing”. And I don’t mean anything. He probably had a 30-minute training session last Saturday. There was a lot of discussion about this among the management. Till the last 15 minutes we didn’t know whether to start him or leave him. But we came down that you can drop him in the last 15 but what if it flops? It can defy us. At least that way, we were able to start that and if it wasn’t happening, we could have changed something.”

Ryan Dougan stuck to him well like Warnock did to Walsh with neither marquee forward scoring from the game. But Crookes found other ways. They were 1-4 to 1-3 ahead at half-time and Aidan Jones had a chance to put them ahead but Glenn goalkeeper Conlan Bradley failed from close range.

The Glen found ground primarily through Glass and Emmett Bradley with a powerful third quarter in the midfield, Ethan Doherty from the left wing and Tallon inside. He opened up a double-digit lead twice but went no further. Crookes was hesitant but hit the last four points as the impact of Shane Horan and Sean O’Connor was felt off the bench. Walsh did the job with some free passes and some attractive passes

O’Rourke was frustrated that he had not consolidated his early advantage and went long periods without scoring. ÔÇťOverall in the first half I felt we didn’t have the readiness that we had at other times. I just felt that going forward we threw the ball away a bit and they were getting good rebounds. After all, it took a year for the Crocs to drive and it made a minor difference.

Scorers – Kilmacud Crokes: S Walsh 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2fs, 1’45); D Mullin, S Cunningham 0-2 each; D O’Brien, P Mannion (F), C O’Connor, C Dias 0-1 each. Glen: De Tallon 1-3 (2fs); A Doherty (1m), E Bradley (1f) 0-2 each; J Doherty, C McGuckian 0-1 each.

Kilmacud – C Ferris; D O’Brien, T Clancy, M Mullin; C O’Shea, R O’Carroll, A McGowan; B Shovlin, C Dias; A Jones, S Walsh, D Mullin; P Mannion, S Cunningham, H Kenny. Subs: C O’Connor (47) for Kenny, S Horan (50) for Jones, L Ward (57) for Cunningham, C Casey (63) for D Mullin, T Fox (63) for Mannion.

Glen – C Bradley; C Mulholland, R Dougan, C Carville; M Warnock, T Flanagan, E Doherty; C Glass, E Bradley; E Mulholland, J Doherty, C Convery; A Doherty, D Tallon, C McGuckian. Sub: S O’Hara for Convery (37), P Gunning for A Doherty (58).

Reference – D’O’Mahony (Tipperary).

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