Crokes protecting proud home record as Barrs come calling

Brian Looney

St Finbarr’s probably don’t need telling, but Dr Crokes have never lost a Munster club championship game at their Lewis Road home.

On top of that, Pat O’Shea’s charges are chasing a third straight provincial final appearance and seventh this decade.

Sunday’s clash at Lewis Road (throw-in 1.30pm) is the third consecutive year that Crokes will enjoy home comforts on the afternoon of the Munster semi-final. From the Barrs’ viewpoint, they’ll be hoping to fare substantially better than the last two county champions to visit the Killarney venue.

Kilmurry-Ibrickane of Clare were swatted aside with 15 points to spare last year, while there was six between Crokes and Tipperary’s Loughmore-Castleiney in November of 2016. Going further back, there were quarter and semi-final wins over Castlehaven and the aforementioned Loughmore-Castleiney late on in 2013; a 1-14 to 0-6 semi-final triumph over Clonmel Commercials in 2012; a narrow three-point win over Kilmurry-Ibrickane in 2011, with Monaleen comfortably accounted for at the quarter-final juncture a year earlier.

That’s seven Munster club championship games which have been played at Lewis Road and seven victories for Dr Crokes.

Crokes’ involvement in Munster did not end with provincial glory in 1987, 1992, 2010, and 2017, but all four defeats, against Cork opposition, were played out on Cork soil. They’ve yet to be taken on their own patch.

“We’ve been lucky enough to experience home games in the Munster championship in our own ground inside in Lewis Road and I’ll tell you, there is nothing like it,” says Brian Looney, the Crokes half-forward seeking to pocket a sixth Munster medal by the end of the month.

“Even just taking out the travelling aspect, we’ll take anything we can get on our side of the house.”

Looney doesn’t believe their busy schedule of late will be a factor this weekend. Sunday’s Munster semi will be their third game in the space of 14 days, whereas Ray Keane’s St Finbarr’s have had a fortnight’s break ahead of this fixture and have only played one game since October 7.

“We wouldn’t mind two weeks [between games] at this stage, but you take what you get. We’d play tomorrow if we had to. We are still where we want to be. We are still in with an opportunity of reaching a Munster final and that is all we want.

“While we played well against Moyle Rovers, there were times when we weren’t too good, so we need to improve to give ourselves a chance against St Finbarr’s. We were delighted to get 60 minutes of really, really tough Munster championship football under our belt [last Sunday]. That can only stand us.”

Their opponents will again be without injured forward Cillian Myers Murray. This is the Barrs’ first foray into Munster since 1991, with Crokes also providing the opposition on that occasion. The Munster quarter-final, played at Ballincollig, was tied at 2-7 to 1-10 when Danny Cooper, older brother of Colm, kicked the winning point in the last play of the game to secure victory for the Kerrymen.

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