Lilywhites cry foul at 'cruel' finale
Controversial late free spoils fightback as Brogan stands tall to take 14-man Dubs into Leinster final
IT was the call that cost Kildare a second chance, the Leinster Council a small fortune and the football championship a blockbuster replay, but Meath referee Cormac Reilly wasn't swayed by any consideration other than deciding that Bernard Brogan was fouled as he hunted for possession deep in stoppage-time in Croke Park yesterday.
Stunned after conceding 1-1 which brought Kildare level, Dublin pressed forward in search of redemption and were rewarded when the referee decided that Brogan was fouled by Andriu MacLochlainn in a race for possession. It must have been the tightest of calls, but it proved decisive as Brogan calmly slotted the free over the bar to book a Leinster final clash with Wexford on Sunday week.
Kildare are heading for the qualifier route -- which opened up invitingly for them in two of the last three seasons -- but they might so easily be preparing for a replay next Saturday after wiping out Dublin's six-point interval lead.
Capitalising on the dismissal of Dublin full-forward Eoghan O'Gara on a second yellow card in the 40th minute, Kildare had clawed their way back. They twice cut the lead to two points before a Stephen Cluxton '45' and a punched effort from Man of the Match Alan Brogan put Dublin four points clear after 63 minutes.
However, Kildare plugged on gamely and got what appeared to be a crucial break when Eamonn O'Callaghan beat Cluxton with an angled drive in the 69th minute before the same player kicked the equaliser in stoppage- time.
It called for the coolest of heads from Dublin and, from the kick-out, they worked the ball into the Kildare danger area where MacLochlainn was adjudged to have fouled Brogan, a decision which, hardly surprisingly, drew contrasting reactions from the rival camps.
"I was sure in my own mind that it wasn't a free. It's a cruel way to end a game of football," said MacLochlainn.
"He (Andriu MacLochlainn) was pulling him, no question," said Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, who felt that Brogan should have been awarded more frees throughout the game.
"He did nothing wrong," said Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney as he sought to defend MacLochlainn, who had an eventful day. Named at right corner-back, he was replaced before the game by Ollie Lyons but was brought on for Gary White after 29 minutes.
White had been summoned ashore with a rib injury five minutes after he lost possession to Paul Flynn, who galloped through to score a fine goal which set Dublin on their way to an interval lead of 1-7 to 0-4. They had been especially dominant in the last 15 minutes of the half, out-scoring Kildare by 1-5 to 0-1.
It was Dublin's most enterprising period as they stretched Kildare through various channels which usually ended with the Brogan brothers causing most problems. Flynn enjoyed a productive day too, while in defence, Rory O'Carroll, Paul Conlon and James McCarthy were consistently solid.
Dublin lost midfielder Michael Dara Macauley with a badly broken finger and his absence for the second half was significant as Kildare constructed a brave fightback, much of which emanated from the middle third.
They were helped enormously by O'Gara's dismissal on a second yellow card, an error which could have proved very costly for Dublin. Given that he was already on yellow, it was a careless challenge by O'Gara and left his colleagues carrying an extra burden in the intense heat.
Kildare worked extremely hard to dig their way back into contention, kicking the first four points of the second half and looking very much as if they had built a match-winning momentum.
Dublin's response was brave and well-organised and they succeeded in picking off points on the breakaway raids to leave themselves four clear before Kildare's late surge set the scene for a dramatic finale.
It was all desperately disappointing for Kildare but, on the overall balance of play, they could have no complaints about the result. Their finishing was extremely poor in the first half, not in terms of kicking wides but through their failure to get the necessary distance into their shots.
Several deliveries dropped into Cluxton's arms, allowing him to launch counter-attacks. The 'keeper also played his part in the scoring, kicking two valuable points from placed balls, one in either half.
Dublin were mighty relieved to win a game that took time to settle into any rhythm before powering through the gears to provide wonderful entertainment for the crowd of 58,723.
"It's always great to dig out a win like that in close game," said Dublin captain Bryan Cullen, while Gilroy was particularly pleased with the manner in which they remained calm after Kildare drew level late on.
"It was disappointing to concede that goal but the response was excellent," he said.
He will have been satisfied with the manner in which Dublin put pressure on the Kildare attack, preventing them from getting in anything like as many strikes as they had against Wicklow and Meath.
"You've got to keep them under pressure and we did that well for long periods. Obviously it got harder when we went a man down but we stuck to it well," said Gilroy.
McGeeney felt that Kildare had as many attack as Dublin in the first half but didn't make them count.
"Dublin's defensive system is very good. You're not going to get as many shots away against them as against other teams," he said.
Word came through during McGeeney's post-match interview that Kildare had drawn Laois in the qualifiers, a clash that will certainly ignite local passions.
Despite losing yesterday's game in the most disappointing circumstances, McGeeney has no doubt his side will be re-energised for the qualifier tie on Saturday week.
"We've got to take it on the chin and come back. You can only control what's in your own hands and now we've got to think of the qualifiers," he said.
Dublin are back in the more familiar surrounds of the Leinster final, having passed an important psychological test in surviving a very tight finish.
"We controlled the ball well today. Our only real blip was conceding the goal," said Gilroy.
In the end it didn't matter as Brogan won and converted the late free which took Dublin into their sixth Leinster final in seven seasons.
Scorers -- Dublin: B Brogan 0-6 (5f), P Flynn 1-1, A Brogan, S Cluxton ('45', f) 0-2 each, B Cullen 0-1. Kildare: E Callaghan 1-2, E O'Flaherty 0-4 (1f), R Kelly 0-2, E Bolton, J Doyle (1f), R Sweeney 0-1 each.
Dublin -- S Cluxton 7; P Conlon 8, R O'Carroll 8, M Fitzsimons 7; J McCarthy 7, G Brennan 7, K Nolan 6; D Bastick 7, MD Macauley 7; P Flynn 8, A Brogan 9, B Cullen 7; D Connolly 6, E O'Gara 5, B Brogan 8. Subs: E Fennell 6 for Macauley (ht), K McManamon 6 for Connolly (54), D Lally 5 for Flynn (61), R McConnell for Bastick (66), B Cahill for Cullen (68).
Kildare -- S Connolly 7; H McGrillen 7, M Foley 7, O Lyons 6; E Callaghan 8, G White 6, E Bolton 7; J Doyle 7, H Lynch 7; M O'Flaherty 6, E O'Flaherty 8, P O'Neill 6; A Smith 6, R Sweeney 7, J Kavanagh 7. Subs: A MacLochlainn 7 for White (29), R Kelly 8 for Smith (29), C Brophy 6 for Lyons (38), S Hurley 5 for Sweeney (48), T O'Connor for Hurley (65).
Ref -- C Reilly (Meath).