‘We’ll pay them the respect they deserve’ – David vs Goliath in Leinster senior final

Kevin O’Brien reports from Parnell Park

AFTER YESTERDAY’S SEMI-final win over Portlaoise, the danger for Kilmacud Crokes is complacency setting in ahead of the provincial final against tiny Longford club Mullinalaghta. 

The Dublin champions are 1/5 with most bookmakers to defeat Mickey Graham’s Mullinallaghta, who have a club membership of just 155 compared with Kilmacud’s 4,000-odd numbers.

They’ve become the first Longford club to make a Leinster final, but their small pick doesn’t mean they’ll be pushovers.

Mullinalaghta, with the incoming Cavan manager Graham still in charge, have proven their pedigree during an impressive provincial campaign where they defeated Offay’s Rhode in Tullamore and put Carlow side Eire Og to the sword yesterday in a comfortable 18-point victory.

“No way, we haven’t looked past today,” said Kilmacud’s joint manager Johnny Magee.

“It’s the cliche, we take every game as it comes. We don’t know much about Mullinalaghta, we haven’t even looked past today to be honest. Mullinalaghta, will pose a threat like any team that’s in a Leinster final, they’re there to be won.

“It’s 60-odd minutes and it’s 15-on-15 so we’ll pay them the respect that they deserve, like every opposition we played this year. Hopefully we’ll have a full strength team to pick from in a few weeks time.”

After conceding just one goal in six championship games since April, Crokes looked far more vulnerable defensively against Portlaoise – even with six-time All-Ireland winner Cian O’Sullivan in their rearguard.

Gareth Dillon scores a goal for Portlaoise.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

They shipped three goals and needed a superb penalty save from goalkeeper David Nestor to prevent a fourth goal and the prospect of extra-time. 

“Delighted for Davy,” Magee said. “Massive save and that’s his job. If he was to drop a ball in the back of the net it would be the biggest mistake in the world, but he stepped up in the last minute of the game and pulled off a massive save. That’s what he deserves.

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“Davy is a good guy, he’s been around the block a long time and he pulled off a massive save that pushed us into a Leinster final. A lot of work went into today and a lot of lads did very well. Are we happy to be in a Leinster final? Yeah. Are we disappointed with some of our play where we invited a lot of trouble onto us? Obviously. Unforced stuff.

“We haven’t conceded a goal since April. We conceded one goal up until today so it was a bit naive on our part, we probably stepped off them a bit too much. But that’s a credit to them, they moved the ball quickly, they’ve good footpassers of the ball.

“We probably stood off them a bit too much and invited them onto us where they were allowed to get the goals off. That was the disapointing thing from it but look we’ll learn from today. We’ve stuff to work on for the next day. 

“At least people got their value for money on the gate anyway. We did things the hard way, showed great character, composure at times, a bit of naivety at times. But we’re in a Leinster final and that was our objective once we got out of Dublin was to get to a Leinster final. We’re there, in fairness to the lads they dug in and we got the win and David pulled off a massive save at the end.”

Crokes, who are back in their first Leinster final since 2010, won without a big performance from All-Star Paul Mannion. The Dublin ace has been struggling with a hamstring injury of late and posted 0-5, three from play, but it was Dara Mullin and Callum Pearson who impressed up front for Magee’s side.

“The lads are well able to play football. Give them the ball as quickly as possible and they’ll cause anybody problems. In fairness to the lads they had a fine game today, Dara did very well, Callum did very well whereas some other guys didn’t step up, didn’t play particularly well.

“And that’s what team football is all about. Different lads at different stages stepping up and a few of the younger lads stepped up today whereas some of maybe the more experienced guys didn’t step-up. That’s the nature of the game and I’m delighted for those lads, the character they showed in the last five minutes was brilliant.

“We’ve been trying to manage him (Mannion) since the county final. And look, I think he didn’t play as well as he could have today.

“In fairness to him, he’s moving well the last four weeks and he got through the game. He’ll probably be a bit disappointed in how it didn’t go for him but he’s been very good for us. ”

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