This time last week they were odds-on favourites to win a third consecutive county title but Dr Crokes’ 2018 championship aspirations were dealt a crushing blow on Sunday when they fell to a shock defeat to Kerins O’Rahilly’s in the Park.
It was the Crokes’ first loss in the competition since October 2015 and not many people saw this one coming, especially not at half time when the Killarney side led by 10.
Rahilly’s still trailed by eight heading into the final quarter but they showed tremendous heart to stage one of the most unlikely comebacks you’re ever likely to see. In fact, many of the crowd in attendance missed the thrilling finale because they had long since left the stadium. To be honest, I was nearly gone myself.
Guys like David Moran, Barry John Keane and Tommy Walsh really came to the fore as Strand Road outscored the reigning champions 3-7 to 0-3 in the final 15 minutes plus additional time. Mike Quirke’s men were rampant down the stretch and if they can replicate this kind of intensity moving forward, they could go a long way.
Crokes, meanwhile, will be left to wonder what went wrong. There were murmurs around town that they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders but it was still a huge upset by anyone’s standards. I can’t recall ever seeing a Crokes team capitulating in such emphatic fashion and it’s bound to dent the players’ confidence. They wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.
Their performance in the opening round against St Kieran’s was below par (they actually trailed with five minutes to play) but that was dismissed as an anomaly. In light of last weekend’s disastrous result, there are now serious doubts about their form. And form isn’t something that can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch.
Having said that, no one in Kerry will be writing Crokes’ obituary just yet. They’re not out of the competition and you would expect them to defeat An Ghaeltacht tomorrow in Round 3 to advance to the quarters. This team have been utterly dominant in recent years and, despite what happened last Sunday, it’s still hard to envisage them not being a factor in the latter stages of this year’s championship.
East Kerry are now the bookies’ favourites to lift the Bishop Moynihan Cup following another comprehensive victory in Killarney, this time against Dingle. The East were actually down two at the interval but they eventually racked up 6-15 en route to a handy 17-point win. David Clifford, who bagged a brace, showed his class once again and in Evan Cronin, Kevin McCarthy, Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford and Jack Sherwood they have a forward line that can torment any defence in the county.
The Killarney Legion are also safely through to the quarters after a fine win against Mid Kerry in Killorglin. Conditions were tough and the hosts raced into an early lead thanks to two quick-fire goals, but the lads responded well and I thought we were good value for the win in the end. Damien O’Sullivan was excellent at full back and I was also really impressed with Aidan Slattery who put in a serious shift at half forward.
It has been a good start and it’s nice to take the direct route to the last eight but there’s a long way to go yet.
Austin Stacks defeated South Kerry by a point in the other winners’ round game so they will join Rahilly’s, East Kerry and Legion in the hat for the quarter-final draw, which will take place after the last Round 3 game on Sunday.