Westmeath impress again
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Kilmacud Crokes Crowned Kings Of Leinster
January 8th, 2022
KILMACUD CROKES DUBLIN 0-14 NAAS KILDARE 0-7
By Paul Keane at Croke Park for GAA.ie
Dealt a crushing blow with the loss of ace marksman Paul Mannion ahead of the AIB Leinster club SFC final, Kilmacud Crokes still securedtheir fifth title with the minimum of fuss at Croke Park.
Tom Fox rose to the occasion in Mannions absence for the Dublin champions with five points while there were huge performances too from Craig Dias and a Rory OCarroll led defence that held Naas to just three points from open play.
Naas didnt score at all in the second-half as Robbie Brennans Crokes turned the screw and produced their best performance of the campaign to keep their All-Ireland title hopes intact.
They will play the Connacht champions Padraig Pearses of Roscommon or Mayos Knockmore in the All-Ireland semi-finals on the last weekend of the month.
They may also be without Mannion for that game too with the six-time All-Ireland winner and three-time All-Star understood to be sideliend for several weeks with a knee problem.
There was no obvious drop in standards despite Mannions unavailability and the win will go some way to making up for the clubs previous Leinster final defeat to Mullinalaghta of Longford in December of 2018.
Crokes made three alterations to their published lineup this time with former Offaly forward Shane Horan and midfielder Ben Shovlin joiningMannion in missing out.
Mannions absence was the big blow with the 28-year-old bang on form lately, striking 0-6 in the quarter-final win over Wolfe Tones and dragging his team to victory against Portarlington with two important second-half scores.
His unavailability was offset somewhat by the withdrawal of Kildare forward Darragh Kirwan from the Naas team, a considerable blow to the underdogs considering his 1-2 haul in the semi-final win over Shelmaliers.
Shane Bergin and David Gahin were also withdrawn from the published lineup.
In Mannions case, Callum Pearson, an OByrne Cup finalist with Dublin in 2019 and the county final matchwinner in November, was a decent replacement.
Pearson needed just 13 minutes to get on the scoreboard. Tom Fox, Dara Mullin, Dan OBrien and Dias all pinched points too as the Glenalbyn side hit the interval with a narrow 0-8 to 0-7 advantage.
Paddy McDermott was terrific for Naas, bursting forward from his half-back position and kicking one sumptuous score off the outside of his boot before setting up Dermot Hanafin and Callaghan for separate points.
Hanafin, son of the former Kerry player of the same name, was handed a starting berth after netting from the bench in the semi-finals and impressed too with two first-half points.
Veteran team captain Eamonn Callaghan accounted for half of Naas first-half tally, shooting 0-4 from frees and leaving the game balanced on a knife-edge at that stage.
They held the nine-times Kildare champions scoreless in the third quarter, kicking 0-4 themselves, though probably should have been even further ahead.
Dara Mullin was a central figure in this period but only came away with a point from two great goal chances.