Sunday 17 December 2017

Dublin survive scare to equal unbeaten record

Dublin's Paul Mannion. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Dublin's Paul Mannion. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

Dublin footballers wrote themselves into history by extending their unbeaten sequence of matches to a record-equalling 34 in Tralee last night, but not before suffering a huge scare. A Paul Mannion point, with just 15 seconds left of the four minutes of additional time announced, earned a draw, denying Kerry a notable and prestigious victory. It finished 0-13 apiece.

Mannion's score contained an element of assistance from the hosts who had a free in their own half shortly before, from which Paul Murphy uncharacteristically kicked away possession. In the following play, started with Kevin McManamon's interception, a wild punt from Philly McMahon held up in the wind and the break fell kindly for the visitors, before Mannion applied the finish with his left foot.

Kerry were the last team to defeat Dublin, when they won in a league meeting in March 2015, and last night's result means that Dublin can create their own unique record by making it 35 on the trot if they beat struggling Roscommon in Croke Park next Saturday night. Kerry previously chalked up 34 games unbeaten from 1928-1933, although it included one walkover. Dublin now look destined to surpass that next weekend.

Not for the first time this year they took time to find any kind of momentum and Kerry were the dominant team in the first half when playing into a stiff wind. Dublin were fortunate to go in at the interval on level terms with ten points shared. Murphy had an early goal chance he blazed wide and Paul Geaney, later named the player of the match, almost netted shortly before the interval but his shot was saved by Stephen Cluxton, who diverted the ball over the bar one-handed.

Dublin were poor and uninspiring, with Kerry aggressive and visibly wound-up. They controlled most of the play and their midfield was totally on top where David Moran gave an outstanding performance. There were 13 yellow cards, an injury-time dismissal for Ciaran Kilkenny and several skirmishes although the game calmed down in the second half and the play improved greatly, with Dublin finding a new gear, using their bench to good effect. Kerry started the second half impressively, scoring four points, but then went 19 minutes without another as Dublin hit them for six points.

Cian O'Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Eoghan O'Gara, McManamon and Mannion came off the bench and brought much-needed impetus and Conor McHugh continued to show more of the promise demonstrated in the win over Mayo in the previous round, finishing with two points and winning a free which Dean Rock converted. He was denied a second-half goal by an heroic goal-line block by Mark Griffin.

Leading 0-11 to 0-9 by the hour mark, Dublin lost their way again. Geaney, who finished with 0-7, including three from play, ended Kerry's scoring drought. He then levelled the game from a free and Barry John Keane fired Kerry in front after 65 minutes. The clock had gone past 70 minutes when Donnchadh Walsh put Kerry two points in front. Kerry, beaten in two All-Ireland finals, two All-Ireland semi-finals and a national league final by Dublin in recent years, looked poised for a famous win. But a minute later McManamon won a free which Rock nailed and then came Mannion's late intervention, sealing the draw, Dublin's third in the league to date.

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