Saturday 21 September 2019

Atmosphere in Kingdom rivals Croker as Kerry fans upbeat at replay chances

Towns a sea of green and gold as draw celebrated in 'special final'

Kerry fans Katelyn Cashman, Subrina Locknane, Donna Quirk and Isabel Baily in The Huddle bar in Tralee. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Kerry fans Katelyn Cashman, Subrina Locknane, Donna Quirk and Isabel Baily in The Huddle bar in Tralee. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Leah Costelloe, George Reidy, Lauren Scannell and Sylvester Trafny, from Tralee. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Chearnóg Pub manager Mark O’Sullivan with his Sam Maguire replica with Dublin fan Avril O’Connor. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Kerry fans Con Barrett and Pat Reidy in The Huddle. Photo: Domnick Walsh

Ralph Riegel in Tralee

The electric atmosphere in Kerry as the Kingdom fought out an epic All-Ireland draw with arch-rivals Dublin couldn't have been rivalled by the Rose of Tralee, Puck Fair and the Listowel Race festivals all combined.

Fans in packed pubs and GAA clubs across the Kingdom were left emotionally drained at the final whistle by an enthralling Croke Park clash - but thoughts immediately turned among the ticketless towards getting a prized ticket for the September 14 replay.

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Avril Connor, from Sandyford, Dublin, has lived on the Kerry-Cork border for over three decades - but still decided to proudly wear her Dublin GAA jersey as she watched the match with Kerry friends in a Tralee pub.

"It was an absolutely brilliant atmosphere. I'd love to have seen the Dubs make history with the five-in-a-row but I think a draw was probably fair to both sides," she said. "We're all friends so we decided to watch the match here at the Chearnóg Pub. It's been great craic over the past few days."

Kerry fans struggled between the conflicting emotions of relief at avoiding an agonising defeat with Dean Rock's extra time missed free and anguish that they should have won the epic long before extra time.

"They are two good sides and this Kerry team will be around for years to come," Tralee fan James McCarthy vowed. "There's something very special about a Kerry-Dublin final."

But he still put his head in his hands at the final whistle after more than seven minutes of added time.

Chearnóg manager Mark O'Sullivan had a special Sam Maguire Cup cut-out in the pub and proudly wore a Kerry jersey signed by every member of the panel.

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"The best of this Kerry side has yet to come," he defiantly predicted.

Tralee streets were a sea of green and gold thanks to overhead bunting and businesses proudly competing with each other for the best 'Ciarraí Abú' front window.

Kerry fans Geraldine Kissane and Rachel Rogers said it was a great performance against a very powerful Dublin team.

"They'll bring the Sam Maguire back to the Kingdom - there's no doubt about that," Ms Kissane said.

Kerry even drew support from their old Munster rivals.

Helen Barry, from Killavullen, Co Cork, has lived in Tralee for over 30 years and decided to sport a green-and-gold jersey to support the Kingdom.

Her son, Con, said the youthful Kerry side had everyone believing that a bright new era for Kingdom football was about to dawn.

"They've the best forwards in the game. They're the future side to beat," he said.

The banter between Kerry and Dublin fans made for a remarkable atmosphere from Tralee to Killarney and Dingle.

Kerry fan Kevin Looney happily held aloft a Dublin GAA flag to show the good spirit between both sets of supporters as the match got started. "They're both great, proud footballing counties," he said.

At the Brogue Inn, Fíona Kirby and her entire staff proudly wore Kerry jerseys to show their support.

Noreen O'Mahony, Jacinta Quirke and Kathleen Hoey said the entire county was proud of their footballers and the courage they had displayed against the well-oiled Dublin machine.

Kerry fans Ian and Patrick O'Shea said the Kingdom would be adding to their 37 All-Ireland crowns in the very near future.

"Those forwards are just incredible and with the likes of David Clifford they have huge potential going forward," Ian said.

"They're just going to get better and better."

Kerry fans George Reidy, Laura Scannell, Sylvester Trafny and Leah Costelloe said the entire county was left breathless by the thrilling Croke Park classic.

In The Huddle pub there was an audible gasp of relief as fans exhaled when Dublin missed their chance to win the match at the death.

But there was no masking the tinge of disappointment at failing to derail the Dubs' drive-for-five at the first time of asking.

"God almighty, but Kerry should have won it. There shouldn't have been any replay. I'm afraid now that Dublin won't be as vulnerable in the replay. That's my fear," Mick O'Brien glumly admitted.

"But what a performance by Kerry - they rattled the Dubs. They were outstanding."

Kerry fan David Scollard, who watched the match with his Cork friend Liam O'Neill, said there was enormous potential within a very young Kerry panel.

"I think they'll be the side of the next decade," he predicted.

Kerry have chased Gaelic football's Holy Grail for 132 years without success - the coveted five-in-a-row of All-Ireland football titles. Twice Kerry had been denied the five-in-a-row in both 1933 and 1982 - latterly by the agonising margin of a single point as Offaly's Séamus Darby scored a decisive late Croke Park goal in 1982.

The Kingdom are now determined to stop their arch rivals from becoming the first county to take five consecutive titles on September 14.

"They've nothing to fear now from Dublin," Mr O'Brien added.

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