Monday 22 April 2019

Not a Barbarian in sight as destiny's children break Kingdom bravehearts

Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, and Rory O'Carroll, Dublin, involved in a tussle during the game
Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, and Rory O'Carroll, Dublin, involved in a tussle during the game
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The heroes will kick off woolly rugs when they are old and full of sleep. Kick the rugs off as they dream of the day long ago in Dublin when they played in one of the greatest games of football of any era.

The memory of the match between Dublin and Kerry has already become part of folklore and legend and it is barely an hour since the final whistle.

Dublin were magnificent. Kerry were magnificent. Epics need two teams, but only one can win. Dublin are in the All-Ireland final and we must go home now from this place where we have drunk in such a mix of swirling emotions through 10 decades and more.

Epics are played out by heroes.

The Gooch showed he is still the best Gaelic footballer in Ireland. If you ever lose a needle in a haystack, call him at once. He threaded passes through the mass of bodies like a laser surgeon. Dublin hit him so hard it was if they blamed the banker from Killarney for all our ills. His namesake Jonny was lucky to stay on after a trip felled the Kerry teddy with the tousled red head.

A sending-off might have changed the result, but somehow I doubt it. Dublin were faster, fitter and younger. In one magnificent burst, they kicked five points from all angles just as Kerry looked like winning. They put Dublin swash into every buckle.

Tomás ó Sé, our oldest laoch, was worn out by the 48th minute. Tomas spent too long driving a move upfield. Legs gone, he seemed to glance over at the bench to suggest it might be best for the team if he was taken off. But some men graft the green and gold on to their hearts. Some men don't give in. Hold your head up, Tomas. You are Kerry to the core.

His uncle Páidí and Kevin Heffernan were honoured before the game. The two sets of supporters clapped as one. Both men from different traditions would have saluted the game as it was played yesterday.

In times when the dour and the dogged were winning all round them, the game of football has been saved.

The Dublin saviours came from families where the cot was a pitch and the soother a whistle. It was bred into them.

Young Dean Rock, destiny's child, kicked two great points and nailed in Eoghan O'Gara's final goal. Barney, for so long an actor in the Kerry-Dublin saga, was so proud of his son. And as for Kevin McManamon, he has caused heartache in Kerry twice now with winning goals. He sneaks away from the fray only to materialise where the ball falls. You can't coach it, this ghosting away. Kids have it when they're three or never.

Cian O'Sullivan was the fittest player on the field. An athlete he is, with the conformation of a sprinter and the stamina of a middle-distance runner. He never took a backward step.

Jack McCaffrey has been the find of the year or any other year, but he's not really a find in that he, too, is one of destiny's children. His dad also laboured long in the blue. Savour this day.

John McCarthy's boy gave all for his team just as his dad did before him.

Bernard Brogan came good, as he always does. Bernard kicked six superb points. His lovely mother Marie is a neighbour. We must not forget the mothers. Dad Bernard, like Barney Rock, starred in a great rivalry of yesteryear.

Indeed, it was Bernard Senior who scored the crucial goal in the Kerry versus Dublin 1977 semi-final.

Now 2013 is up there with that great day. I was present for that semi, 36 years ago. Privileged I was then and I feel the same way today even though we lost. How is it that Kerry always seem to lose the classics?

We will travel home now and regroup. The end of an era it might well be. The beginning of another for Dublin. This team has the capacity to win several titles.

Their manager Jim Gavin made all the right calls. He is a shrewd one and he understands the need for pace on the prairies of Croke Park.

Eamonn Fitz has also done a great job and he cracked Stephen Cluxton's kicking code.

I'm so proud tonight here in Dublin. Proud to be a Kerryman. Proud we played our part in what was one of the best games ever played. There are no excuses. None. But we could have won. If only...

We have some good players coming through. All of your young lads showed great promise today. Now they know what it takes to win an All-Ireland. The hurt will fire them up for next year.

Dublin will be hard to stop now. Mayo, the people's favourites, so crave a title.

But these Dublin men were ferocious and skilful heroes on the holy day Gaelic football was saved and the Barbarians were sent packing from the gates of Croke Park.

Yes, we're forlorn, but never broken. Beaten by a better team, but not forever. There will always be a Kerry.

Coming Soon: Independent.ie's new GAA newsletter. Sign up here

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The James Lowe dilemma, Munster's tough task and Croke Park classic revisited

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport