Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
©INPHO/Morgan Treacy Dr Crokes' Colm Cooper.
# Club Finals
Preview: Castlehaven v Dr Crokes, Munster club SFC final
It’s Cork v Kerry as the race for the Munster title comes to a climax at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Munster club SFC final

Sunday: Castlehaven (Cork) v Dr Crokes (Kerry), Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork, 2pm (Ref: Michael Meade, Limerick)

Clues from the form guide… That Crokes are even here, they can thank their goalkeeper David Maloney. It took two fine stops to see them past Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the Munster first round but that may have been the hardest game they’ll face this year and if anything it sparked them into life.

The last day was much more predictable as they picked apart Clonmel Commercials but most worryingly for the opposition today, that was a game in which their county players looked menacing. Johnny Buckley was good in midfield, getting forward to point, Eoin Brosnan netted and Colm Cooper whipped over eight points, two of those from open play.

But if a scare is a good thing, then Castlehaven can look back to their own last-four encounter. We knew there was something gritty about this side when they emerged from a county final with 14 men and we saw it again the last day.

Behind with 11 minutes to go against Stradbally, they found a way to get through it, although how they struggled with a side physical in nature is a little bit of an oddity given how they like to play on the edge themselves and have size throughout.

Indeed that suggests they took their eye of the ball although given their opponents here, that won’t happen again.

As for the bigger picture, Crokes are going for back-to-back Munster titles and a third provincial crown in seven years. Castlehaven did once have their own mini-dynasty going down south, but that belonged to a different generation in the mid-1990s.

Checking the odds… Even though we think it won’t go their way, the venue means Castlehaven are overpriced at 7/2 and if we get bad weather the three-point handicap may be on the high side as well. Elsewhere Colm Cooper is 4/1 for first and last goalscorer, with Kieran O’Leary at 16/1 and 11/1 respectively to achieve the same feats.

A topic for pub chat… Is Munster club football proof that the game at this level has next to no impact on the county scene. After all, the general trend over the years has been that when Cork are getting the better of Kerry on the national scene, it’s been Kerry clubs getting the better of Cork clubs on the local scene and vice versa. After all, the 1970s and 1980s were a glory era for Cork clubs, only in the early 1990s did Crokes and Laune Rangers get a foothold and it’s a cycle that now seems to be repeating itself.

The game breakers are… First up, can Castlehaven score enough to keep pace with a potentially explosive side as in effect, they’ve only two forwards with Mark Collins a very nimble playmaker and Brian Hurley feeding off his work. Seanie Cahalane is also there, but in truth it’s rare that anyone other than the former two gets more than a couple of points and that may be an issue for the Cork champions.

They do have size and Seán Dineen and Dermot Hurley are an imposing midfield but how they use Damien Cahalane will be interesting. He is the main man at the back, and can be used as a man-marker as against Donncha O’Connor in the county final, but if they leave him to follow Cooper for the afternoon, they’ll lose their main driving force.

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Across in the other dressing room, of course Colm Cooper is the game breaker as no one else in the country can pick apart a team like he can but watch for Kieran O’Leary coming from deep as well. If those two play well and Johnny Buckley excels from kickouts, then the visitors are nearly there.

Gazing into the crystal ball… We think this is a better Dr Crokes than the one that lost out to Crossmaglen last year. They’ve former Kerry under-21 Mike Moloney back from London, while Shane Myers is back from injury. Those two help them at the back greatly in terms of size to counter and speed to trouble Castlehaven, while at wing-back Fionn Fitzgerald could get a run-out with Kerry before long.

There’s a lot of football there and we haven’t even gotten to a much-celebrated attack and if they can stand up physically to the opposition, then they are in a great position. Worryingly for the home side, Castlehaven are a little vulnerable to quick movement of both ball and players in the full-back line and were taken apart by Nemo Rangers in a recent league final. They need to be at their best for that not to happen again.

Verdict: Dr Crokes by four

Preview: Crossmaglen Rangers v Kilcoo, Ulster club SFC final >