SLIDESHOW: Croom battle hard to win Minor A football title over Adare

John Redington


John Redington


In the years coming up to the turn of the century, Croom produced one of the most remarkable crops of underage players ever seen in Limerick.

On Tuesday night, memories of the young Stephen Lucey, Mark O'Riordan, John Galvin, Peter Lawlor and their team-mates were rekindled in the minds of their supporters in Mick Neville Park when their minor footballers captured the county A championship.

It wasn't just the success, it was the flair, the invention and the swarming intensity of a side that was giving maybe an average of three inches a man to there opponents and didn't give a damn. When they had to, they defended like angry wasps; when they got the chance, they poured forward and flashed the ball around in every possible direction to set up the opening for the score.

And it wasn't an easy task facing them. This was a good Adare side, fleshed out with talent and packed out with physique where it mattered. But even though they exploded into action with a first minute goal and powered themselves back in front early in the second half, they were eventually ground down by an irresistible force.

Maybe the course of the game might have been different had Adare's outstanding defender Mike Keane not been forced to sit the game out because of Harty Cup commitments the following afternoon or had his half-back colleague and captain Garrett Sparling not been injured before the break.

But that still probably wouldn't have been enough. Once they got moving, Croom weren't going to be stopped. Cian Sparling gave Adare the dream start when flicking his midfield partner Michael Southgate's speculative shot to the net and, while
O'Sullivan replied immediately with his opening free, Adare's huge physical advantage kept the ball in their opponent's half.

However, for all their possession, they couldn't find the posts, shooting four wides before O'Sullivan struck again with a free. When his next free tied up the scores, Croom were buzzing, ferociously crowding out their opponents and striking on the break to draw the foul.

When chances broke down on the final pass, Adare got a temporary respite which Seán Connolly and Mike Toomey used to restore their lead but O'Sullivan then struck from play and from a free to tie up the scores again.

Croom  were still in control when his next free went over to give them the lead for the first time. However, Southgate climbed to pull the kickout from the sky and sliced through the defence to kick a spectacular equaliser before Connolly's free in added time restored Adare's lead at 1-4 to 0-6.

Attacking straight from the restart, O'Sullivan was denied a goal by AdamO'Callaghan's save  only for Stephen O'Dwyer to pounce on the rebound to equalise. Adare responded with a barrage of attacks but Croom packed well behind the ball and limited the damage to Connolly pointing from a free and from play.

The pressure dropped when a breakaway led to Cian Fitzgerald's point and, scenting blood, Croom piled forward in numbers to follow up. Another three assaults also found his humming boots to put them ahead by two which O'Sullivan stretched to three. His next free failed to rise but almost sneaked into the top corner and when he was fouled collecting the clearance, he notched up his eighth point of the night.

Adare threw everyone forward in an attempt to recover but the ravenous Croom defence was in no mood to concede and, indeed, Croom could have added the icing on an injury time breakaway had another O'Sullivan attempt not been stopped on the line.

SCORERS, CROOM: Ethan O'Sullivan 0-8 (6 frees), Cian Fitzgerald 0-4, Stephen O'Dwyer  0-1; ADARE: Seán Connolly 0-4 (2 frees), Cian Sparling 1-0, Mark Toomey, Michael Southgate 0-1 each.

CROOM: Kyle Hayes; Sean Cregan, Conor Tangney, Jake O'Connell; Conor Twomey, Tim Lyons, John Lyons; James Mangan, Cian Fitzgerald; Josh Shinnors, Jamie Greaves, Leon Kirrane; Stephen O'Dwyer, James Burke, Ethan O'Sullivan. SUBS: Ray Dunworth for James Burke (48 minutes), Evan O'Donnell for Leon Kirrane (injured, 53 minutes), Aaron O'Mahony for John Lyons (61 minutes).

ADARE: Adam O'Callaghan; Tim Murphy, Robert Moloney, Cian Kirwan; Joe Sweeney, Garrett Sparling, Rory O'Connor; Cian Sparling, Michael Southgate; Diarmuid Hartnett Brown, Michael O'Mahony, Rory Desmond; Mark Toomey, Seán Connolly, Harry O'Donnell. SUBS: Seán O'Mahony for Garrett Sparling (injured, 21 minutes), Oliver Corbett for Harry O'Donnell (51 minutes).

REFEREE: Owen Curtin (Gerald Griffins).