Arles Kilcruise took their place in the last eight on Saturday night, something that is nothing new to them, but if Killeshin had have taken half of the chances that came their way Jim Maguire’s men would have been in for a much shorter championship run that they have grown accustomed to. Thirteen wides in total, with nine of those in a totally one-sided second half pointed to Killeshin’s downfall and Kilcruise will breath a huge sigh of relief before preparing for their quarter final showdown with Graiguecullen.
The men in maroon are old masters at this grade, and taking on the new pretenders of Killeshin, few would have foreseen anything other than another win based on hard-work and hunger for the Arles outfit. Without the suspended Kevin Meaney and the not quite match-fit Ross Munnelly in their starting fifteen would have been a concern but if it was there little sign of it in the first half as the Conway brothers combined to carve out a six-point lead at the interval.
There was no doubt that Kilcruise were the better side in that opening half hour but the extent of the advantage might have been a touch flattering. Chris Conway punched two goals home in a fifteen minute spell but apart from that Killeshin weren’t being in any way overran. It was David Conway however that stole the show with a blistering display. He won every ball that came his way, created the two goals and kicked three superb points from play to leave Diarmuid Whelan chasing shadows. A fine defender in his own right, Whelan simply had no response to Conway and an alternative marker should have been deployed well before the start of the second half.
Killeshin had found things equally troublesome at the other end of the field in the opening thirty minutes, managing only three points from play in that period, but they matched that in less than five minutes of the second to cut the Kilcruise lead in half and suggest that there was still plenty to play for in a tie that up to then had seemed to be limping to an inevitable outcome.
Shane Lowry and Barry Ryan hit the first two of those before Cathal Brennan’s third of the game and in spite of the introduction of Ross Munnelly Kilcruise were looking a little short of ideas. Munnelly did muster a response of sorts with a well placed free and when Eoin Stynes recovered quickly from a shuddering hit to point from close range it looked as though Kilcruise had weathered the storm.
Killeshin had seen three relatively straightforward chances spurned early in the half but with KIlcruise retreating to defend their five point lead last year’s Intermediate champions were in almost complete possession of the football and it was an incessant wave of Killeshin forward play for the final twenty minutes.
Four more wides followed before Cathal Brennan tapped over a free, but Kilcruise showed the levels of efficiency that has served them so well down the years by breaking away on their first attack in ten minutes and slotting over a point from the boot of Chris Conway.
Conway’s score must have been a real kick in the teeth for Killeshin who scrapped and scraped for their scores only to see their opponents convert with such ease. It left five points in the difference with eight minutes left, and although it was to be Kilcruise’s last score of the game, it would be more than enough.
Killeshin owned the ball for that final period and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their resolute opponents. A goal would have thrown the game wide open but no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t get in past the Kilcruise full back line and they had to make do with chancing their luck from further back.
Simon Attrride had been introduced earlier in the half and he did enough in that time to suggest that perhaps a starting berth would have been the better call. With five minutes left he launched over a super point and followed that with another two minutes later from slightly closer in to leave a kick of a ball in the difference. Cathal Brennnan reduced it further with a neat free immediately after but that was to be Killeshin’s last score of this their first year back in the Senior championship. Kilcruise had done enough to hold on; they are the masters of doing just that.
SCORERS - Arles Kilcruise: Chris Conway 2-3 (0-3 frees), David Conway 0-3, Eoin Stynes and Ross Munnelly (free) 0-1 each; Killeshin: Cathal Brennan 0-5 (four frees), Shane Lowry 0-3 (two frees), Simon Attride 0-2, Damian Lowry and Barry Ryan 0-1 each.
ARLES-KILCRUISE: Jimmy McDonald, Michael O’Shea, Patrick Conway, Fran Tully, JP Conway, Rory Stynes, Anthony McElroy, Steven Miller, James Conway, Eoin Stynes, Colm Munnelly, Jason McLoughlin, Brendan Conway, Chris Conway, David Conway. Subs: Ross Munnelly for P Conway (31 mins, inj)
KILLESHIN: Shane Whelan, Diarmuid Whelan, Jeremy Mahon, Kevin Ryan, Eoghan Farrell, Arnie Mahon, Jeff McDermott, Eoin Brennan, Pauric Bolton, Barry Ryan, Stephen Attride, Cathal Brennan, Shane Lowry. Subs: James Davis for E Brennan (40 mins, inj), Simon Attride for B Ryan (41 mins), Gavin Deering for Bolton (53 mins)
Referee: David Murphy (Portarlington)