Spa and Crokes met in Spa on Saturday evening and, with just a point or two separating the teams for most of the game, it was the home side that eventually came out on top.
Niall McCarthy was first on the scoreboard but Crokes responded immediately with two points from Kieran O’Leary and one from Michael Casey to lead 0-3 to 0-1. Niall McCarthy (2) and Brian Looney swapped scores before Niall O’Mahony levelled the game at 0-4 apiece at the quarter hour mark.
Spa will feel aggrieved not to have a penalty call after David Spillane hit the ground, but Crokes reacted swiftly, converting an additional three points from Mark Fitzgerald, Michael Casey and Alan O’Sullivan. They almost rattled the Spa net too but James Devane pulled off a brilliant save. Michael Foley and Niall O’Mahony exchanged points with Chris Brady and Kieran O’Leary to keep the three point gap between the sides.
A point from Jack Griffin briefly extended that lead as half time approached, before a great run by Niall O’Mahony was finished to the Crokes net by Ciaran Spillane in the 33rd minute. At the half time whistle the narrowest of margins separated the sides at Spa 1-6 Crokes 0-10.
Kieran O’Leary increased the Crokes advantage but a point from the outstanding Shane Cronin was quickly followed by another from Niall McCarthy to level the game at 1-8 to 0-11. Chris Brady and Kieran O’Leary again put two between the teams but Spa continued to battle hard and Dan O’Donoghue’s effort bounced off the crossbar and dropped between the posts. James Devane pulled off another super one-on-one save before Gary Vaughan bolted up the wing and punched the ball over the bar to level matters yet again with ten minutes remaining.
Shortly thereafter, Crokes were reduced to 14 men with the influential Kieran O’Leary sent to the line, but that didn’t deter them as they quickly took the lead again with a Michael Casey point. Niall McCarthy kicked his fifth of the day to draw the game level again at 1-11 to 0-14 with five minutes remaining.
Mark O’Shea edged Crokes in front once more with a great point but Spa were soon attacking again at the other end, when a bullet of a shot from Cormac Cronin hit the crossbar and Shane Cronin collected the rebound and scored and the sides were even again at 1-12 to 0-15 with two minutes of normal time remaining.
Spa showed great character in the final few minutes and a brilliant Shane Cronin point tipped the inside of the post and dropped behind the goal to give Spa the lead for the first time since the opening score. Ryan O’Carroll finished the insurance point in the fifth minute of injury time and Spa, for the first time in years, defeated neighbours Crokes by 1-14 to 0-15.
Spa are away to Rathmore in the next round on Sunday July 14th.
Spa Team: James Devane, Eoghan Cronin, Eoin Fitzgerald, Bryan Russell, Ciaran Spillane (1-0), Dan O’Donoghue (0-1), Gary Vaughan (0-1), Shane Cronin (0-3), Michael McCarthy, Niall McCarthy (0-5), Niall O’Mahony (0-2), Ryan O’Carroll (0-1), Cormac Cronin, Michael Foley (0-1), David Spillane, Subs: Conor Stack, Brian Devane, Shane Fenton
Crokes Team: Shane Murphy, Brian Fitzgerald, Michael Moloney, Mark Fitzgerald (0-1), David Naughton, Jason Lyne, Lorcan McMonagle, Alan O’Sullivan (0-1), Mark O’Shea (0-1), Mike Milner, Jack Griffin (0-1), Brian Looney (0-1), Chris Brady (0-2), Kieran O’Leary (0-5), Michael Casey (0-3). Subs: Michael Potts, Paul Clarke, Jordan Kiely, Gavin O’Shea, Kieran Ward
Referee: Eddie Barrett (Knocknagoshel)
Photos: Anne Holland