Dublin produced a magnificent performance to clinch their 23rd title in all and first for 16 years when Pat Gilroy's bravehearts took the scalp of their more-fancied Kerry opponents before 82,300 at Croke Park today.
The Dublin-Kerry clash was an occasion which had captured the public imagination with reports that the stadium could have been sold out twice over such was the demand from fans to be there.
The most eagerly anticipated All-Ireland final in years between these two traditional footballing giants got off to a low-scoring and somewhat scrappy, but nonetheless fascinating start with just a single point being converted in the opening ten minutes. Intense and well-worked, but largely fruitless attacks were exchanged as chances were squandered by both teams in the opening half of this game. Having said this, the game was not lacking in the slightest in entertainment in the opening 35 minutes.
Declan O’Sullivan opened the scoring for Kerry with a fisted effort before Alan Brogan replied with two marvellous points for Dublin. Kerry’s captain Colm Cooper netted after 19 minutes with an excellent finish, the likes of which has been synonomous with the great man in Croke Park throughout his marvellous career. In years gone by, it may have been thought that Kerry would kick-on and leave the Dubs in their wake, but this was not the case. A combination of an incredible work-rate and dogged determination on the Dublin side, and an uncharacteristic number of errors on the Kerry side made sure the Dubs stayed with Kerry, and even pulled ahead of the pre-match favourites..
Indeed it was Dublin who had the better of the play before half-time. Alan Brogan saw an excellent goal chance saved in the 25th minute before both Bernard Brogan and Steven Cluxton converted vital frees to give Dublin the lead for the first time in the 29th minute. Paul Galvin, who many believe to be Kerry’s trump-card, had been introduced for Kieran O’Leary and pointed in the 34th minute to keep Kerry within touching distance at half time with the score at Dublin 0-6 Kerry 1-2 at half time.
Dublin got off to a lively start in the first 5 minutes of the second half as a Bernard Brogan free as well as a well-worked Dennis Bastick point added to their half-time advantage. A flurry of scores on the Kerry side by Bryan Sheehan, Kieran Donaghy, and Colm Cooper meant that proceedings were level by the 45th minute, and that a pulsating final 25 minutes were in store in this final which was shaping up as a classic. There is no doubt that Kerry were by no means playing to their potential, but credit had to be given to the well-organised and supremely fit Dublin side who were making life extremely difficult for the kingdom.
A wonderfully composed score from Sheehan gave Kerry the lead in the 50th minute before a further Bernard Brogan free levelled the game as we entered the final quarter of this memorable affair. Sheehan and Cooper kept the scoreboard ticking over for Kerry as they took advantage of three further dead-ball opportunities, and the more experienced Kerrymen seemed to be taking charge of this final.
As the game drew ever nearer to its finish, it looked as if Kerry would stroll across the line to victory as they had manufactured a 4 point lead, but Dublin were far from beaten. A crucial goal from Kevin McManamon raised the already electric atmosphere a further level in Croke Park before an excellent pointed effort from Kevin Nolan tied the game up once again.
Dublin’s ever dependable talisman Bernard Brogan put the Dubs ahead in the 68th minute before a massive looping effort from Kieran Donaghy two minutes later looked like it would bring the game to a replay. Dublin, however, had other plans. They found energy for one final attack, and when the excellent McManamon was fouled just outside of the Kerry 21 yard line, the fate of the Capital rested on the broad shoulders of Stephen Cluxton. It was a measure of the man that he slotted over the winning point and made the hurt of 16 years of failure disappear for Dubs everywhere.
Dublin scorers: B Brogan (0-6)(0-4f), K McMenamon (1-0), A Brogan (0-2), S Cluxton (0-2)(0-2f), K Nolan (0-1), D Bastick (0-1)
Kerry scorers: C Cooper (1-3,0-2f), B Sheehan (0-4, 0-2f), K Donaghy (0-2), D O’Sullivan (0-1), P Galvin (0-1)
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; C O'Sullivan, R O'Carroll, M Fitzsimons; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan; D Bastick, M D McAuley; P Flynn, B Cahill, B Cullen (Capt); A Brogan, D Connolly, B Brogan. (P McMahon for J McCarthy 45mins, K McManamon for P Flynn 51mins, E O’Gara for B Cahill 57mins, E Fennell for D Bastick 63mins)
KERRY: B Kealy; K Young, M Ó Sé, T O;Sullivan; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, A O'Mahony; A Maher, B Sheehan'; Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper (Capt), K Donaghy, K O'Leary. (P.Galvin for K O’Leary 25mins, B J Keane for D. Walsh 51mins, D Bohan for E Brosnan 64mins)