Sunday 22 September 2019

GAA is €5m winner as thrilling Kerry and Dublin final set for replay

Kerry get a second shot at denying Dublin in the drive-for-five

Agony and ecstasy: Kerry and Dubs fans feel the stress in the final moments at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Agony and ecstasy: Kerry and Dubs fans feel the stress in the final moments at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Agony and ecstasy: Kerry and Dubs fans feel the stress in the final moments at Croke Park. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
A Kingdom fan celebrates in the stands. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Dubs fan Jim Costello from Killiney. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Old rivals Jimmy Deenihan TD and Bernard Brogan Snr. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Fergal O’Gara with his grand-daughter Fiadh (1). Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Kerry supporters, the Morley family. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Ryan Nugent at Croke Park

It was a pulsating final with the prospect of a historic five-in-a-row between Dublin’s juggernaut and a Kerry side with 37 All-Irelands in their pockets.

The 82,000 fans who packed Croke Park witnessed an enthralling match in which the sides matched each other for pace, passion and commitment.

Tensions rose at the end of the first half when Jonny Cooper was controversially dismissed after fouls on David Clifford.

But Kerry failed to make the extra man count and breathed a huge sigh of relief as a Dean Rock free kick deep in stoppage time that could have sealed the historic win for Dublin sailed agonisingly wide.

So both teams must return to the seething crucible of Croke Park on Saturday, September 14, to battle again for the Sam Maguire and a bonus €5m payday for the GAA.

The roars of 82,000 Dublin and Kerry fans left Croke Park humming long after the final whistle had blown.

This was a game that had ebbed and flowed, leaving spectators' nerves frazzled and their throats hoarse - but most importantly their hopes still alive.

Minutes before referee David Gough called a halt to the encounter, it looked like the drive-for-five would yet again go unaccomplished.

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The 15 men in green and gold swarmed around their great rivals like bees to a hive.

And just when it looked as though Dublin's invincibles would be dethroned, Dean Rock had one final chance to give Jim Gavin and the red-carded Jonny Cooper a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card.

Had his last-ditch free gone between the posts, it may have been supporters from the Kingdom who would have to lock themselves away for what would have been a long, unthinkable winter.

But, alas, we go again and based on what we witnessed at GAA HQ yesterday, a Séamus Darby moment is just as likely as the drive-for-five in less than a fortnight.

"The GAA will love a replay," remarked one supporter leaving the ground. And with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimating that the replay will be worth more than €12m to the GAA and the city, this rematch certainly won't do any harm.

Pre-match, plenty of supporters in blue on Jones' Road wouldn't even entertain the idea of not winning.

Judging by the number five etched on faces, flags and car reg plates, party-mode had already begun.

A blue fifth birthday balloon flew from the Nally terrace, but that will have to go on standby until the second Saturday in September at the very least.

But as the clock ticked past the 70-minute mark and their side a point down, those same supporters would've "bitten your hand off" for a draw, as former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said on his way home from the stadium.

A game like that isn't good for the heart, particularly if you have relatives involved.

When Dublin defeated Kerry in the 2011 final, Eoghan O'Gara's newborn was hailed as the lucky charm that ended the 16-year drought. Now seven and at the game with grandfather Fergal, Ella O'Gara was working her magic yet again.

"She was crying at the thought, she had to leave the pitch, she went out to pray," Fergal explained.

"When Eoghan is taking part it's harder for us, but when we knew he wasn't taking part [in the 26-man panel] it's easier to watch, but still you're on edge," he added.

Ken Morley, cousin of Kerry full-back Tadhg, admitted it was tough viewing for the whole family.

"You might think it's good, it's stressful. It takes a bit of the enjoyment out of it because of the pressure, but pride is the one thing out of it," he said, adding the Kerry performance ensured they would all be looking forward to the rematch.

Another fan, Noel Curran from Portmagee, was so enthused he said it might be worth taking it upon himself to scout Jim Gavin's Dubs.

"You wouldn't know, we might stay up for the two weeks maybe, see if we can find out a few things about the Dublin team," he joked.

On the blue side of the divide, former Hill 16 hero Ciarán Whelan was just delighted the Boys in Blue would live to fight another day.

"Kerry caught Dublin by surprise in some facets and they got out of jail. At one point I thought it was gone, there were a few things that were unlike Dublin to do," he said.

And standing outside the Hogan Stand together were old pals from the 1970s Dublin-Kerry rivalry, Jimmy Deenihan and Bernard Brogan Snr.

"Well I really thought Kerry would do it today, and I said that openly," Deenihan said.

"But I thought at one stage Kerry had lost the opportunity, but then when they had the game won they just didn't capitalise on that, so I hope that isn't going to backfire on them. It'll be very tight again, there's nothing between these two teams."

Brogan Snr agreed and expects another nip and tuck clash on Saturday week.

"Before the match I thought it was gonna be a tight game, a couple of points and I think the next day it'll be a couple of points."

His son Bernard Jnr missed out on the Dublin 26-man panel yesterday.

"Ah, I was [disappointed], but that's the way it is, sure he's another chance to make the next panel now," he insisted.

While a place on the panel will occupy the minds of Brogan and O'Gara over the coming weeks, for Dublin and Kerry fans a place in the stadium is a must as the ticket frenzy begins.

Irish Independent

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