Kilmacud Croke s players celebrate with the Clery's Cup. [Inpho/Ben Brady]

Walsh seals the deal for unfancied holders Kilmacud in Dublin final

Kilmacud Crokes 1-14 

Ballyboden St Enda's 0-9

Word in Dublin GAA circles all last week was Kilmacud were there for the taking - and there is no one better to take advantage than a local rival in this south Dublin derby acting as a county final.

Seldom will holders who are also All Ireland champions run onto a pitch like Parnell Park as underdogs but such was the case on Sunday as Robbie Brennan’s men entered the fray.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

From the throw-in, though, it was a different story and once you saw the attitude of their tigerish defense and hungry attack, you knew they had turned up with their A game for the big occasion.

Most importantly, their Galway import Shane Walsh was back up to All-Star form as his contributions were the difference between the two sides at the end. 

Walsh accounted for 1-2 in a low-scoring game and it was his goal 10 minutes after the interval which hulled the Ballyboden ship and left it bailing water for the rest of the journey to the final whistle.

It was billed as Walsh and Paul Mannion, fresh from his most recent All Ireland success in July, versus the Basquel brothers but it never turned out that way. Indeed, Shane Cunningham was an impressive performer in the winners’ attack, and with Mannion also contributing on the scoreboard, the eight-point victory margin was just about right in the overall context of creative play.

From a time when Dublin titles were largely the preserve of northside clubs, the epicenter of football now is very much south of the Liffey with Crokes winning their 11th crown with only St Vincent's ahead of them in the winners’ list of titles.

Ballyboden were chasing a fifth Dublin championship but they hadn’t the nous or the firepower to trouble an amazingly efficient Kilmacud rearguard who will now go in search of a hat-trick of provincial crowns starting next month against Eire Og in Carlow.

Another factor in the change of team performance was obviously the return of Craig Dias, a member of the Dublin panel who beat Kerry in this year’s All-Ireland final. At this level, his engine keeps the Crokes going forward and his return after injury and despite the faceguard to protect his broken nose, was a huge reason why they looked a different outfit.

It is not just the big names though, manager Brennan often lauds the lesser names like Cunningham and Mark O’Leary for their contributions. It was the latter who got proceedings underway with an early point and once the winners hit their stride after ten minutes, they kept the scoreboard ticking over to lead by 0-6 to 0-3 within 21 mins with Mannion included in the scoring.

Ballyboden rallied before the break with Ryan Basquel landing a brace but Mannion delivered one of his signature scores to leave Croke 0-7 to 0-5 to the good at the interval.

Cunningham led the team to glory last year and it was he who showed leadership qualities again after the break when his two points put them four clear.

That was a comfortable lead but then when Walsh showed both pace and poise to run diagonally through the defense to power home a classy left-footed goal to seal the deal.

Another unsung hero Dara Mullins swung over a fine score to push the lead to eight for a win that was even easier than the scoreline suggests.

Kilmacud Crokes: D Higgins; J Murphy, D O'Brien (0-1), T Clancy; A McGowan, A Jones (0-1), R O'Carroll; M O'Leary (0-1), B Sheehy; S Horan (0-1), P Mannion (0-3, 0-1f), D Mullin (0-1); H Kenny, S Cunningham (0-3), S Walsh (1-2) Subs: C O'Connor (0-1) for Horan 42, L Ward for Kenny 51, D Dempsey for Cunningham 58, A Quinn for Jones 59, L Flatman for O'Leary 62.

Ballyboden St Enda's: D Gogan; C Flaherty, K Kennedy, S Clayton; B Bobbett, J Holland, A Gavin; C Darcy, M D Macauley; L O'Donohue, W Egan, R McGarry (0-2); C Basquel (0-3, 0-1f), R Basquel (0-3, 0-2f), R O'Dwyer Subs: M McDonald for Macauley h/t, D Sweeney (0-1) for Egan 42, R Baynes for Kennedy 45, D O'Reilly for O'Dwyer 49, L McHugh for Bobbett 52.

Ref: D Feeney (Parnells).

Gowna 5-15 Kingscourt Stars 0-13

When a team scores five goals in a final, you can bet your bottom dollar they will end up winning the game. And so it was in Breffni Park on Sunday when Gowna went nap when it came to raising green flags to leave a bewildered Kingscourt outfit floundering in their wake by a massive 17 points.

It was the winners' 10th senior football championship and the easiest they have ever experienced on the big day.

What will delighted Cavan folk always yearning for a return to the glory days of the forties is the fact that this team is young and bristling with both ambition and attitude and could help buttress the county side in the coming seasons.

As youngsters, the winners found it tough initially to find their feet as their more mature opponents led by 0-6 to 0-2 after the first quarter but once they goal tap was turned on, it changed the complexion of the game completely. From four points down, they were three ahead following a devastating two-goal burst which was added to with a point. As half-time approached they would have another crucial goal to give them a six point advantage on the scoreboard but more importantly their confidence had been boosted and they now ruled the highway to the Kingscourt goalmouth.

Eight of the winners are aged 21 or less and it was two of this brigade, man of the match Ryan Brady in the center of the park and his county U20 clubmate Tiarnan Madden who brought about the change in how the game unfolded.

Brady landed the first goal on 17 mins and once Eoghan Hartin hit the second, there was an inevitability about the outcome.

Darragh McConnon's score for his team saw them demoralize their opponents, and suddenly Gowna were three in front with 19 minutes on the clock. And when Oisin Pierson  hit the killer third goal, it was all over bar the shooting..

Despite an attempt by the Stars to make a fight ot it, the game went further away from them when Tiarnan Madden made it 4-6 to 0-9 thanks to good approach work from Conor Madden. Once Tiarnan Madden flicked home his second goal nine minutes into the second half, the crowd’s thoughts turned to getting home early as the business end of Cavan football was done and dusted for another year.

Summerhill (Meath) 1-9 Tullamore (Offaly) 1-7

This was precisely the sort of publicity that the GAA is alway keen to avoid as an irate home fanbase sought out referee Barry Tiernan after his decision to overturn his own penalty decision to Tullamore, which if converted at the end of the game would have seen them snatch victory over their Meath rivals at O’Connor Park on Sunday.

Unfortunately the verbals turned into action when the official was knocked to the ground after he had brought the game to an end as was making his way off the pitch.

The flash point occurred two minutes into injury time when the whistler awarded a free to Tullamore before changing his mind to award a penalty following consultation with his umpires at that goal.

This led to unpleasantness among the two set of  players with Paul McConway unable to take the kick due to the melee taking place around him. Referee Tiernan then sought further consultation with a linesman and after their discussion, he changed his verdict back to a free kick.

Underage starlet John Furlong went for a goal in an attempt to steal a last-minute win but his blockbuster of a shot was diverted and clear before the ref blew the final whistle in the most controversial of circumstances.

And so Summerhill advance from a game which really Tullamore looked to have in their own grasp but they paid the price of missing several easy chances to turn the screw on their opponents.

They led 1-5 to 0-6 at half-time and were in cruise control until Royal sub Kevin Ryan stole in to force the ball over the line with four minutes to go to give the visitors a 1-8 to 1-7 advantage.

Nigel Bracken had a late chance to equalize but his close in free strayed outside the upright. Summerhill’s Eoghan Frayne gave the travelling band of supporters something to cheer about with a score which put his side two up - but a goal from a penalty would have won it for Tullamore at the death.

That didn’t happen despite being awarded and while there will be no doubt about the outcome, there is likely to be a major investigation into what happened at the end which saw the referee felled as he tried to exit the pitch.

Naomh Conaill 1-16 Gaoth Dobhair 1-8

Yes, it was a bit of a doddle for Naomh Conaill  but hats off to the victors for annexing their seventh county crown and appearing in their seventh final in a row at MacCumhaill Park on Sunday.

That takes a lot of commitment and they showed they had it in spades on the pitch when dismissing a hugely disappointing  Gaoth Dobhair with a first-half blitz which saw them turn over 0-9 to 0-2 ahead..

Led by the excellent Ethan O’Donnell Conaill were masters all through and no less than 10 people found themselves on the scoresheet after their hour’s work

Gaoth Dobhair  made an effort to raise their game for the second half and landed a few early points which suggested they might make a game of it.

But it was a mirage as Naomh Conaill kicked on  with  Charles McGuinness goal midway through the half ending the contest though the losers kept plugging away and got a consolation goal through sub Fergal Delaney.

Naomh Conaill: S McGrath; J Campbell, AJ Gallagher, U Doherty (0-1); K McGettigan, A Thompson (0-1), E O’Donnell; L McLoone, C Thompson (0-3); B McDyer (0-1), O Doherty (0-1), E Doherty (0-1); J Mac Ceallabhuí (0-2), C McGuinness (1-2), J O’Malley (0-3,0-2f) Subs: E Waide for Campbell (44), K McGill (0-1) for McDyer (51), L Quinn for McGettigan (56), S Corcoran for O’Malley (58), M McDevitt for MacCeallabhuí (60).

Gaoth Dobhair: D Roberts; A Breathnach, N McGee, G McFadden; N Friel, S Ferry, M Roarty (0-1); D Ó Baoill (0-1), D MacGiolla Bhride; M Carroll (0-3,0-2f), O MacNiallais, J O Baoill; E Harkin (0-1f), E McGee, C McEntee Subs: S McFadden for Ferry (h-t), K Gillespie (0-1) for McEntee (38), C de Burca for Roarty, N MacGiolla Bhride (0-1) for J Ó Baoill (both 51), F Delaney (1-0) for Breathnach (54).

Ref: E McFeely (St Mary’s, Convoy)

St. Brigid's 0-12 Boyle 0-11

It took a massive performance by a man named Paul McGrath to get St Brigid’s across the line in a tense and tantalizing battle against Boyle at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday.

Pity poor Boyle who were men on a mission as they sought to bridge a gap which has seen them fail to win the Roscommon SF title since 1927. This is the second year in a row they have suffered reversals by the minimum of margins, something that arguably makes defeat harder to take than if the margin of loss had been bigger.

They had one chance to force extra-time, but with the pressure on Cian McKeon under hit his free and the final whistle sounded before another possession could be secured.

Portaferry 0-20; Ballycran 0-16 

This was a game worthy of final billing as Portaferry showed their mettle to come through to claim their 22nd Senior Hurling Championship in Newry on Sunday. But they were made to fight all the way by their big rival Ards rivals Ballycran who were also intent on relieving Port of their crown.

Ballycran had won their clash at the group stage but this was the win they wanted in this title bout. They went punch for punch until stoppage time when the champions wrestled control to make the margin of victory more comfortable than was actually the case .