Kildare no match for Dubs as dominant second half sets up Leinster final against old enemy Meath
Dublin 0-26 Kildare 0-11
A STRANGE kind of wonderful from the all-conquering Dubs in Croke Park today.
They won, as everyone expected, in a double-digit saunter against an outclassed Kildare team that battled manfully against the odds for the opening three-quarters of this Leinster SFC semi-final before the white flag was raised.
That is what this Dublin machine will do you do.
When Adam Tyrrell landed his fourth point, and third from play, in the 47th minute, Kildare ‘only’ trailed by six – 0-15 to 0-9.
Damage limitation? Perhaps. But Dublin then moved through the gears and demolished the wilting Lilies, outscoring them 0-11 to 0-2 from there to the predictable finish.
By the final audit, in front of a crowd of 36,126, Dublin were 15 points clear as they eased through to another Leinster final against the old enemy, Meath.
Fifteen points was also the combined score from play of their unstoppable full-forward line: Paul Mannion led with the way with a magnificent 0-7, Cormac Costello’s 0-9 haul included five from play, and the perpetually busy Con O’Callaghan chipped in with 0-3.
With Ciarán Kilkenny also sniping a hat-trick from the ‘40’, and the marauding Brian Fenton supplementing his midfield duties with a brace, it was always going to be a question of by how much.
That said, Dublin weren’t foot-perfect. Jim Gavin might rue the absence of any goals; he might be even more pernickety about the three goal chances coughed up to Kildare, none taken.
Stephen Cluxton marked his 100th SFC appearance with a point-blank save from Ben McCormack in the first half. Then, after the break, McCormack sneaked in behind the cover but skewed his shot into the side-netting.
The final Kildare goal opening, on 50 minutes, was engineered by McCormack cutting in from the right. When he lost his footing, the ball was offloaded to Keith Cribbin, who seemed certain to score until the flying Cluxton denied him.
“Stevo, Stevo!” cheered the watching Hill in honour of their celebrated centurion.
Back to the first half. Kildare were first out of the scoring traps, Tyrrell converting a free on 80 seconds after Cian O’Sullivan, starting at full-back, fouled McCormack.
But normal order was soon restored as Dublin rattled off six unanswered points from the second to the 13th minute.
Mannion, parachuted back into the attack after his red card against Louth was rescinded during the week, opened the Sky Blue account with a trademark left-footed point cutting in from the right.
Costello, Kilkenny and Fenton all feasted on chances as the Lilywhite defence was cut open too easily at times. Indeed, Fenton might well have inflicted even further damage: released by Brian Howard’s inviting hand-pass, his goal chance fizzed over.
But then a Neil Flynn tap-over free seemed to kickstart the Lilies back to life, and the lively McCormack added a quick-fire brace from play, one off either foot, to make it a three-point game on the quarter-hour mark.
With the error count rising, Kildare wouldn’t score again for another 16 minutes while Dublin added three in that period, from O’Callaghan, Costello and Kilkenny.
In this midst of this, McCormack created a goal chance for himself, beating Mick Fitzsimons for pace along the end-line, but his point-blank effort was repelled by Cluxton.
However, Kildare gave themselves a glimmer of hope by landing three of the last four points before half-time – including two excellent efforts from Tyrrell, who belatedly found his range after a poor start.
That had left the All-Ireland holders, and 1/50 favourites, with a 0-11 to 0-7 cushion at the break but the second was a different story.
SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 0-9 (2f, 2 ’45’), P Mannion 0-7, C O’Callaghan, C Kilkenny 0-3 each, B Fenton 0-2, B Howard, P Small 0-1 each. Kildare: A Tyrrell 0-4 (1f), B McCormack 0-3, N Flynn (f), M O’Grady, K Feely, D Hyland 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, C O’Sullivan, D Byrne; J McCarthy, J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, C Costello, C O’Callaghan. Subs: P Small for Macauley (53), P McMahon for O’Sullivan (53), E Murchan for McCaffrey (62), D Gavin for Kilkenny (62), P Andrews for O’Callaghan (64), R O’Carroll for Fitzsimons (65).
KILDARE: M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, M Dempsey; D Hyland, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; D Slattery, F Conway, C Healy; A Tyrrell, B McCormack, N Flynn. Subs: K O’Callaghan for Flynn (29), C O’Donoghue for Moolick (57), J Hyland for Healy (59), E O’Flaherty for Cribbin (61), C Hartley for Slattery (67).
REF: C Lane (Cork)