Mullinalaghta enter uncharted territory against Dr Crokes

Friday, 15th February, 2019 11:55am

Mullinalaghta enter uncharted territory against Dr Crokes

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Still the underdogs. St Columba’s, Mullinalaghta once again find themselves in the biggest match in the club's history being written off. The bookmakers have installed Dr Crokes as heavy favourites at 1/14 with the Leinster side at 15/2.
Would Kilmacud Crokes have been ranked such outsiders had they lifted the Leinster title? Probably not. The form of this half-parish on the Longford-Cavan border shows this was no flash in the pan. 
In 2016, on winning their first senior crown in 66 years, they faced St Vincent's from Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. With 56 minutes played the Dublin champions held only a one point lead. Having beaten Stradbally (Laois) and St Loman’s (Westmeath), St Columba's went toe to toe and battled against the would be Leinster champions until the dying minutes. 
Move on 12 months and after retaining their county title they brushed aside Eire Og (Carlow) but lost out to St Loman’s by a single point in the quarter-final. The Mullingar side went on to narrowly lose out in the provincial decider in a cracker against Moorefield (Kildare), blowing a five-point lead.
So after completing three-in-a-row in Longford, they had to be confident that they could mix it with the best given their previous two years' showing. And not only did they mix it but they won it and provided a feelgood factor for the nation.
At 3.30pm on Saturday next in Semple Statium, Thurles, Mickey Graham’s men will face the kings of Kerry club football. Dr Crokes sit top of the pile in the Kingdom with 13 Senior Championships, eight Munster titles and twice lifting the club All-Ireland title. 
The Killarney-based side breezed through Munster with the closest winning margin of nine points coming in the final against St Joseph’s (Clare). They currently have five players on the Kerry senior panel in Micheál Burns, Gavin White, Shane Murphy, Michael Potts, and David Shaw. On the bench, of course, is Colm 'Gooch' Cooper.
Shaw will have a busy weekend as he lines out for UCC in the Sigerson Cup semi-final on Sunday. Former Kerry captain Fionn Fitzgerald has been left out of Peter Keane’s panel but will be eager to impress at corner-back against Mullinalaghta. 
The two sides appear to have taken different approaches to the preparation. The 12-week gap is something that Dr Croke's management and players have had grievances with stating that they would prefer the competition to be finished in the calendar year. 
Still, the southern province champions have trained right through while Mullinalaghta opted for a stop-start approach. 
Graham’s men will have their work cut out trying to stop the free scoring Crokes who landed 9-56 in their three Munster Championship games while conceding 3-28 in the same spell. St Columba's have been keeping out the scores, though, seeing only 1-16 go past them in Leinster. 
On the attacking end Mullinalaghta have scored 4-29 in their three Leinster clashes; 1-6 against Rhode, 2-15 against Eire Og and 1-8 in the final against Kilmacud Crokes. A low scoring game should suit the Longford champions but that may be easier said than done.  
Is the fairytale coming to an end or can the tiny parish of Mullinalaghta get to the field of dreams and legends on Jones’ Road? We wish them well.

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