Winning point

Dublin snatch title from Kerry in exciting final

[caption id="attachment_66890" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton scores the winning point from 35 meters out."]


Self-belief. That was the main reason behind Dublin's exciting 1-12 to 1-11 All-Ireland Senior Football final success over Kerry at Croke Park in front of an attendance of 82,300 at Croke Park last Sunday.

With seven minutes remaining of a tense encounter, precious few could see Dublin winning the Sam Maguire for the first time in 16 years. Colm Cooper's point had just put Kerry four (1-10 to 0-9) clear and the Kingdom seemed destined to coast to yet another All-Ireland final victory.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

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

But this is a different Dublin team under manager Pat Gilroy, very different from the one that has thrown away so many winning situations. Okay, things looked very bad but the Dubs were going to keep trying right until the final whistle.

"We always knew that running at Kerry in the final 20 minutes might yield some dividends," argued Gilroy. "We had some guys on the bench, like Kevin McManamon, who could do that.

"So, I felt we would always create chances. Even when there was only three minutes left I felt we would create goal opportunities with the guys we had on the pitch."

Of course, it's easy for Gilroy to say that after the event but there's also no question that he has instilled a new confidence and work-ethic into the Dublin team. Their ability to win tight matches has been evident throughout their championship campaign.

Central to that is the strength of Gilroy's bench. McManamon, having produced the goods in the semi-final against Donegal, came up trumps again as a substitute with the crucial goal six minutes from time.

His effort brought about one of the most extraordinary finishes to an All-Ireland decider for a long time. Suddenly, Kerry were under pressure and a wonderfully taken point from Kevin Nolan, his first ever in the championship, brought Dublin level.

Unbelievably, Bernard Brogan then put Dublin ahead before Kieran Donaghy's wonderful point leveled matters. The match was surely destined to end in a draw, a result that very few among the huge attendance would have complained about.

Only Dublin weren't finished. Yet again, it was substitute McManamon who engineered the opportunity when he was fouled 35 meters out.

With the game now in the third minute of injury it took a very cool head, someone with huge self-belief to take the free. Dublin had just that person in goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

He showed precious little, in any sign of nerves as he calm stroked the ball between the posts to leave Dublin 1-12 to 1-11 in front.

No sooner had the ball been kicked out than the referee Joe McQuillan from Cavan blew the final whistle.

Kerry supporters may well have felt a bit hard done by on the basis that the late free awarded to Dublin was a bit soft. There was also a feeling that the ref should have allowed Kerry more time after Cluxton's successful kick.

But their manager Jack O'Connor deserves great credit for taking it on the chin. It can't have been easy given the winning situation his team was in so close to the finish.

If only his team had been able to keep possession. "We had been three points down and to go four up took a huge effort out of our fellas. Maybe that took its toll on our legs in the last five or six minutes," explained O'Connor.

"The two or three scores that Dublin got to win were turnovers. But in the general scheme of things I have to be very proud of the way our boys played.

"They performed well and rolled with the punches for a long time, played a lot of good football in the second half. But, of course, to lose the way we did was devastating.

"Maybe Dublin's name was written on the cup. They got one or two breaks. They got a sniff. It was snatched away from us and we have to live with it."

Indeed they do but Kerry, as always, will be back. They simply have too many good players, forwards like Cooper, Donaghy and the hugely impressive Darran O'Sullivan.

It was his speed and ability to find the right pass which set up Cooper for Kerry's first half goal. While this was brilliant made and finished, it was also astonishingly just one of three Kerry scores in the first half.

They found it hard to find room against the hardworking Dublin team. Although they did miss a great chance of a goal when Alan Brogan saw his shot stopped by Brendan Kealy, the Dubs were picking off the points.

They moved 0-6 to 1-2 clear by half-time and were 0-8 to 1-2 in front shortly after the break with further points from Bernard Brogan (free) and Denis Bastick. But the final was then to take another twist.

This saw Kerry take command. Bryan Sheehan was having an increasing influence, as was Donaghy.

As the scores dried up for Dublin, Kerry cut their lead with some fine scores, Sheehan, in particular, managing one superb effort. Eventually, not only had Kerry wiped out Dublin's lead but they had gone four points ahead through Cooper's effort seven minutes from the end.

Time for McManamon to do his bit. Kerry's Declan O'Sullivan lost possession to Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan and Alan Brogan duly sent McManamon on his way to secure the goal which changed the All-Ireland final.

McManamon was a definite contender for the man-of-the-match award for his efforts, as was Cluxton. Michael Darragh Macauley was also very good, along with the Brogan brothers Alan and Bernard but RTE opted for the Dublin half-back Kevin Nolan, the scorer of the equalizing point and someone who had a fine game throughout.

Had Kerry held on there's no question that the award would have gone to Darran O'Sullivan. Sometimes though you don't get what you deserve, particularly when you are up against a team as determined as Dublin were to end 16 years of bitter frustration.

Tipp upset Dubs

for minor title

YET again, it was a case of the outsiders winning in the final of the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship at Croke Park on Sunday.

This time it was Tipperary who upset Dublin by 3-9 to 1-14 to win the minor crown for the first time in 77 years. Just like Kerry in the senior decider, Dublin will be wondering how they let it slip.

The answer was some devastating finishing on the part of the Tipperary boys. A 57th minute goal from substutute Colman Kennedy typified their ability to make wonderful use of their opportunities.

After Dublin had gifted Tipperary possession, Kennedy rifled a shot into the top corner for as good a strike as you will ever see at Croke Park.

Dublin had looked the better outfit for much of the game, leading by 1-10 to 2-2 at one stage, but Tipperary came roaring back in the second half. Substitutes Kenney (1-2) and Philip Quirke (0-3) played a major role in helping them turn the game around.

Their young manager David Power must, quite clearly, get a lot of the credit for making those substitutions. He said: "I told the lads we just have to come back and fight, just as we had done previously against Kerry. And we did, we really showed our steel."