Sharpshooting Kingdom come good but Rebels run out of time
THE BUSINESS end of this year's All-Ireland football championship has arrived with its usual elation, devastation and a tinge of controversy.
Wins for Kerry and Mayo meant the outcomes of yesterday's quarter-final bouts went largely to script.
But the manner in which the men from Mayo clung on to eke out a one point victory will linger long in the minds and hearts of Cork's footballing faithful.
"It was surprising that he went for a point all right," said Jackie Barry, from Mallow, on the decision by star forward Colm O'Neill to opt for a point in the dying seconds when only a goal could have saved Cork's skin.
"He was speaking with the referee before he took the free so he must have thought there was more time to play," added Justin Byrne who was at the game with his daughter Miriam.
"We gave it a good go, especially after being down by six points in that key period after half-time. Certainly it was our best game of the season so we can be pleased some bit," Justin added.
But any refereeing interference was entirely ruled out by the Dolan family from Ballina. Dad Sean had total faith in 12-year-old son Kevin's timekeeping as the seconds ticked by.
"Kevin was counting and he told me we had gone into the third minute of injury time when he put it over. There was only supposed to be two," he said after the game.
At times the Croke Park turf glistened as the sun intermittently broke out behind the clouds high over Drumcondra.
Near record levels of rain for an August bank holiday had fallen in the 48 hours previously.
It had little impact on the Kerry forwards in the first half of the day's curtainraiser against Galway.
"James O'Donoghue will be the man today," Kerry supporter Fiona Shanahan predicted confidently shortly before throw-in.
"I'm here with my parents and my sister and her boyfriend. I'm from Killiney in Dublin but my parents are from Ballylongford and Kerry are my team. I never miss a game," she said.
Whatever about missing a game, she wasn't wrong with her prediction.
The Killarney man finished with a goal and five points as Kerry, who will now take on Mayo in the semis, returned to what they do best - win at GAA headquarters.
They can do respectful tributes too as the panel proudly sported wrist bands in honour of Kerry native and inspirational teenager Donal Walsh, whose mental health campaigning touched the nation before his death following a long-term battle with cancer last year.
Galway more than played their part and caused some tense moments for the Kingdom, not least when midfielder Tom Flynn scored a contender for goal of the season just before half-time.
Alas the men and women in maroon went home feeling only blue. "I came more out of hope than anything else," Cornamona man Conor O'Sullivan said glumly.