DUBLIN, Ireland – Dublin will play Mayo in this year’s All-Ireland final after an enthralling encounter at Croke Park today. Two old foes, Dublin and Kerry, went head-to-head at Croke Park and the game lived up to its expectations. Both sides went toe-to-toe for 70 minutes with a game packed with skill, passion, fight and eye catching football.
It took Dublin just one minute to go in front with a point from Diarmuid Connolly. The Dubs started lively and kicked four points without reply. Kerry struggled to retain their kick-outs with Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly forced to kick each kick-out long as the Dubs pushed up man to man on their Kerry counterparts.
Kerry struggled to cope with Dublin’s dangerman Diarmuid Connolly who was allowed way too much freedom in possession early on. The Kerry defence conceded far too many easy frees with poor tackling which allowed Dean Rock to punish Kerry with four points from frees with 15 minutes.
Indeed, it took Kerry 13 minutes to register their first score with David Moran kicking a great score from the right hand side, 2 minutes later the impressive Paul Geaney kicked Kerry’s second score. Kerry’s tactics early on was to kick long direct balls into Kieran Donaghey with Colm Cooper hovering close by to pick up possession off him. Johnny Cooper nullified the threat from his name sake early on and dealt impressively with any threat inside the Dublin full-back line. Cian O’Sullivan played the sweeper role for Dublin and Kerry initially struggled to get any joy from the Dublin defence.
Dean Rock made it 0-06 – 0-03 after 19 minutes with a ‘45’. Rock’s kicking was accurate and it was clear that if Kerry wanted to stay within touching distance of the Dubs they needed him kicking less placed balls. Paul Geaney was lively throughout the first half and had 3 points scored after 25 minutes. Kerry looked to be working much harder for their scores than Dublin early on. After the 20th minute mark the Kerry of old started to put together some well executed moves to open the Dublin defence.
Killian Young was getting forward a lot from the backline and he drew out Dublin defenders allowing Kerry to attack with an overlap. Kerry finished the first half kicking 2-03 without reply in the final ten minutes. An uncustomary poor kick-out from Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton landed in the hands of Paul Geaney who hand passed the ball to Donnacha Walsh who put Darren O’Sullivan in for a well taken goal. Within minutes Kerry scored their second goal after Donnacha Walsh kicked a long ball in which Cluxton struggled to deal with resulting in the ball crossing the line after good pressure from Paul Geaney. Kerry were economical with possession in the first half kicking only two wides, they went in at half-time 2-08 – 0-09 points ahead.
Dublin came out in the second half and kicked 6 points out of 7 after Dean Rock punished some ill-discipline defending by Kerry, Rock was impressive throughout with his free taking and work rate. Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton pointed from range after 49 minutes bringing the game back level at 2-09 – 0-15.
Barry John Keane came on for Kerry and less than a minute later kicked a colossal score from the right hand side to put the Kingdom in front. James O’Donoghue, who was originally meant to start the game, came on after the hour mark and injected some much needed pace into the Kerry set-up. He dropped back further than usual and picked up some good possesions running at the Dublin defence drawing their defenders out.
The skilful Colm Copper continued to keep the narrowest of distances between both sides with some well taken frees on his left foot. Kerry’s old nemesis Kevin McManamon came to the fore for the Dubs in the final 10 minutes when most players seemed out on their feet McManamon seemed to become more energised and put Dublin in front for the first time in the second half with a tremendous effort from out near the sideline. Substitute Stephen O’Brien equalised for Kerry a minute later with a smart fisted point after breaking through the Dublin defence.
The Dubs were not finished, former All-Star Diarmuid Connolly got forward to put the boys in blue in front with a wonderful effort on his left foot. Eoghan O’Gara put the icing on the cake for the Dubs with two minutes to go after going by two Kerry defenders to calmly slot over a well taken point. Connolly was magnificent all afternoon but questions need to be asked why he was allowed so much time on the ball. Peter Crowley shadowed him all afternoon but never seemed to get close enough to stop the Connolly delivering some pinpoint passes into Bernard Brogan and co.
Connolly only needs a split second to unlock a defence and Mayo will know they will need to get much tighter to him if they are to claim that illustrious All-Ireland title on the third Sunday in September.
It finished Dublin 0-22 Kerry 2-14. Kerry legends Kieran Donaghey and Marc O’Shea brought their kids onto the field at Croke Park after the game, it was possibly the last time these two stalwarts will wear the green and gold of the Kingdom for Kerry at Croke Park.