Crettyard Gaels 1-15
Arles Kilcruise 0-12
By Alan Hartnett
CRETTYARD Gaels scored 1-6 in the final quarter of this game to stun Arles Kilcruise and reach their first ever senior championship semi-final.
Before a ball was kicked in the championship, Crettyard would have been many people’s favourites to face the drop but, a blip against Stradbally aside, they have defied the odds and are now just one step away from their first final.
Arles Kilcruise have been the number two side in Laois for much of the time during Portlaoise’s dominance of the championship but they have fallen away since their most recent final appearance in 2012.
Nevertheless, it was Kilcruise who made the better start when Kevin Meaney won the throw up and drilled the ball into David Conway who put the first point on the board.
Michael Nash responded with a point for Crettyard but Kilcruise were in control in the early period as the excellent David Conway edged them ahead once again with back to back points off his right boot.
Crettyard drew level with 11 minutes on the clock as Cormac Murphy and Patrick Brennan pointed after swift attacks which were built with players running off the shoulder.
The men in green, white and gold took the lead for the first time at the midpoint of the half when Evan O’Carroll converted a free from a tight angle. Cristoir Maher split the Kilcruise defence two minutes later but settled for a point although a goal was on.
Fran Egan finally lifted the siege to narrow the deficit to the minimum from a free but it was Crettyard who were creating all of the chances.
Cristoir Maher gathered a wayward pass and popped the ball to Cormac Murphy who split the posts before Michael Nash sent over a cracker from 40 metres to push Crettyard three points clear.
Ross Munnelly kicked a point before the break to leave the half time score 0-7 to 0-5 in Crettyard’s favour and set up the prospect of an exciting second period.
Ross Munnelly and Cormac Murphy traded points on the restart but Kilcruise began to get on top and squared the match again thanks to efforts from Chris Conway and Jason McLaughlin.
Substitute Willie Fitzpatrick raised a white flag to regain the lead for Crettyard but Kilcruise kept with them as David Conway kicked a magnificent point off his left foot from 40 metres to leave the scoreline at 0-9 apiece as we headed into the final quarter.
It was at this point that the pendulum swung firmly in Crettyard’s favour. Patrick Brennan, Michael Nash and Willie Fitzpatrick kicked three points in as many minutes to give them a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Ross Munnelly hit back for Kilcruise but Cristóir Maher kept the margin at three after his surging run ended in a neat score. Kevin Meaney fisted Kilcruise to within two again but Cormac Murphy put three in it as we entered the final five minutes with a spectacular long range screamer.
A minute later, Crettyard made the game safe. Philip Brennan was introduced off the bench and, with his first touch, gathered a defence splitting ball by Maher, swivelled past Anthony McElroy and ripped a shot into the top corner of Jimmy McDonald’s net to send the Crettyard supporters into raucous celebrations.
Kilcruise kept plugging away but the best they could manage was a Ross Munnelly free while Cormac Murphy put a gloss on the final score with his fifth point of the evening to make history for Crettyard.
CRETTYARD: Jeff Moran; Ciaran Hosey, Sean O Shea, Michael Jordon; Cormac Phelan, Paddy Gorman, Patrick Brennan (0-2); Patrick O Reilly, James Brennan; Michael Nash (0-3), Cristoir Maher (0-2), Niall Purcell; Paul Simms, Evan O Carroll (0-1f), Cormac Murphy (0-5, 2f).
Subs: Willie Fitzpatrick (0-2) for Purcell (42m), Philip Brennan (1-0) for Simms (56m)
ARLES KILCRUISE: Jimmy McDonald; Caomhan Brennan, Padge Conway, Anthony McElroy; John P Conway, Michael Wall, Colm Munnelly; Alan McLaughlin, Kevin Meaney (0-1); Ross Munnelly (0-4, 2f), Fran Egan (0-1), Dermot Nolan; David Conway (0-4), Chris Conway (0-1f), Jason McLaughlin (0-1).
Subs: Ciarán Lawlor for Nolan (46m, inj), Mark Wall for A. McLaughlin (53m), Brendan Conway for J. McLaughlin (56m)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)