Monday 12 November 2018

Colm Keys: Was Dublin v Kerry the greatest game Gaelic football has seen?

It's tough to have a definitive answer but Sunday's football semi-final has to be best of modern era

Colm Cooper in action against Dublin duo Johnny Cooper and Jack McCaffrey in what was a masterclass from the Kerry star
Colm Cooper in action against Dublin duo Johnny Cooper and Jack McCaffrey in what was a masterclass from the Kerry star
Paul Mannion fists the ball past Brendan Kealy for Dublin's first goal
Michael Darragh MacAuley, Dublin, wins the breaking ball ahead of David Moran, Kerry
Colm Cooper, Kerry, in action against Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin
Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, and Rory O'Carroll, Dublin, involved in a tussle during the game
Dublin players Paddy Andrews and Ciarán Kilkenny, in action against Kerry full back Mark Griffin and Fionn Fitzgerald
Marc O Sé, Kerry, gets his foot to the ball ahead of Bernard Brogan and Ciarán Kilkenny, Dublin
Bernard Brogan and Marc O Se after the game
Kevin McManamon, Dublin, shoots to score his side's second goal
A dejected Kerry fan next to cheering Dubs
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton fails to stop the shot from Donnchadh Walsh, Kerry
Dublin fans celebrate their side's second goal
Paul Flynn, left, and Michael Darragh MacAuley
1 September 2013; Paul Mannion beats the Kerry goalkeeper, Brendan Kealy, to score the first Dublin goal. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara consoles Kerry's Marc Ó Sé after the game
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

From Jimmy Keaveney to Colm O'Rourke, there is almost universal acclaim that Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final has surpassed every other game in the modern era.

Comparing games from different eras is of course a subjective exercise but taking the 1977 All-Ireland semi-final, acclaimed to have been the best ever, as a starting point, we have put together what we consider to be the best 10 inter-county championship matches of modern times.


Dublin 3-18

Kerry 3-11

Why is it that many of the greatest games involve Kerry being left vanquished?

Held up in quality with the range of movements that came off the argument that defence was poor can't diminish its place at the top. Colm Cooper's sublime vision and Dublin's relentlessness were the strongest features.

Kerry were a point clear in the 67th minute. The scoreline doesn't betray a hint of that, however, which underlines the level of drama and excitement that kept unfolding.


Dublin 3-12

Kerry 1-13

For sure any juxtaposition with a more modern game will leave this in the shade but everything has a context and a relativity and that's why it has stood the test of time.

"It must be judged in the currency of its enactment," suggested Micheal O Muircheartaigh.

Pat Spillane has questioned its merit in the past as the greatest game of all time, suggesting that it was "the result the Dublin media wanted" that made it so great.

Dublin trailed by five at one stage but eventually won by five thanks to two late goals.


Tyrone 1-15

Kerry 0-14

Mickey Harte most fondly remembers Brian Dooher's amazing first-half point but the late surge that saw Tyrone reel off five unanswered points in the last 13 minutes broke a game that had been in a state of deadlock.

Dooher's point ended one of the great passages of play in an All-Ireland final as the ball switched from end to end in a gripping two-minute sequence.

This was a defining game of the decade with Kerry bidding for three in a row and Tyrone bidding for three consecutive championship wins over the Kingdom. It was 'winner-takes-all' with the feel of a unification bout. In the end, Kerry blinked first as Sean Cavanagh powered his way to five points.


Tyrone 1-13

Armagh 1-12

The sight of Owen Mulligan, Tyrone's free-taker for much of the season, beckoning Peter Canavan to come and take a last-minute free that decided matters is the emblem of an epic and almost primal semi-final.

"Thank God the wee man stepped up to take it. I was never so glad to see him come running in all my life," said Mulligan.

Tyrone and Armagh had engaged in a nasty Ulster final replay only weeks earlier, so no one expected what materialised. Every ball became a contest in its own right, fought for with a manic intensity.

Armagh led by 1-12 to 1-10 with six minutes remaining thanks to Steven McDonnell's goal but Tyrone, inspired by Sean Cavanagh, found a way, with Canavan applying the coup de grace.


Down 1-14

Derry 1-12

The All-Ireland title had been shared for the previous three years by three different Ulster counties in an unprecedented sweep of success, so when the draw for the Ulster championship paired two of those counties together, it got the billing it deserved.

Celtic Park was refurbished and a 30,000 crowd attended in glorious sunshine. They weren't disappointed as a game of great pace and ambition unfolded. Mickey Linden gave a wondrous exhibition, kicking six points and helping to set up the crucial Ciaran McCabe goal near the end that sealed victory.


Meath 2-20

Kildare 3-17

Meath's reputation for stirring comebacks had been well founded when they met Kildare for a second time, but what they did twice in this match ranks up there.

They came from five points down to force extra-time after a late Trevor Giles goal but even that was supplanted by what they did to haul themselves back into contention in the second period of extra-time.

Six points down, they turned to supersub Jody Devine, who fired over four points as Meath led by one. Paul McCormack's late equaliser concluded a dramatic day and prompted a second replay, which Meath won.


Offaly 1-15

Kerry 0-17

Not much need to pore over the contents of this one. Once again, context is required to give it its place. In difficult conditions, the football didn't always flow but there was compensation for drama and tension. Seamus Darby's late goal to deny Kerry the five-in-a-row and football immortality remains arguably Croke Park's most famous score.


Mayo 1-16

Dublin 2-12

Dublin's reputation for coming out on the wrong side of classic games reached its tipping point when Ciaran McDonald's late strike concluded an epic second half.

Mayo had put it up to Dublin by electing to warm up at the Hill 16 end and from then this match tuned in to a different frequency. They were eight points down at one stage in the second half but hauled it back to parity in an eight-minute surge by the 46th minute.


Meath 2-10

Dublin 0-15

Like the 1982 All-Ireland final, its storied conclusion redeems anything that was lost in quality in this third replay. On a warm July day, a month on from their first meeting, Kevin Foley's goal, courtesy of that move that spanned the length of Croke Park and David Beggy's lead point condemned Dublin to a stunning defeat.


Galway 1-14

Kildare 1-10

After an at times torrid decade for Gaelic football in the wake of the great Kerry team's demise, this was hailed by some as a rebirth of the game. It oozed quality through some of the scores of a youthful, carefree Galway team. Michael Donnellan's run from deep in his own territory to create Derek Savage's first-half point is its postmark.

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