Paul Curran: 'It is hard to know which team now has the advantage in replay'
What an exhilarating All-Ireland football final. The game had absolutely everything but perhaps the most impressive aspect of this game was the honesty of effort.
It was brutal in terms of the physicality from both sets of players, who put their bodies on the line for almost 80 minutes of mayhem.
It probably was a fair result in the end, but both teams will look back with some regrets because there were certainly opportunities in the dying minutes to sneak the winner.
Kerry will have more regrets because they were in control with a few minutes left when leading by a point and having enough possession to see it out. But I counted three crucial turnovers which led to Dublin’s last two scores.
If Dublin were in a similar position, I am sure they would have been able to close out the game but having big-game experience is crucial at this level and that was key when the game was in the melting pot.
Dublin, incredibly, had a chance at the death to win the game, but the free-kick was from a very difficult position and it wasn’t to be.
Perhaps the foul that led to the free will be seen as a very good one to give away, because when Dublin are in possession they are extremely dangerous and very capable of creating excellent scoring chance.
It was a game, however, that didn’t deserve to have a loser and we can all now look forward to a second contest between these two great rivals.
This contest has plenty of talking points, but the biggest one has to be the sending off of Jonny Cooper on the stroke of half-time.
Jim Gavin might have been wise to bring on another defender after the first card, but John Small saw yellow shortly after which made it difficult to change one without changing the other.
The sending-off came at a time when Dublin looked to be cruising, but that five-point lead was quickly cut to four with the resulting Sean O’Shea free and Kerry went in at the break with renewed confidence and belief that the game could be won.
Dublin, however, are no ordinary team and it was the champions who seemed to control the first 15 minutes of the second period.
Kerry, for some reason, didn’t put too much pressure on the Stephen Cluxton kick-outs in the second half and that gave the Dubs the platform to keep their noses in front and seemingly in control.
Trailing by five points with only 15 minutes to play, the numerical advantage was beginning to tell.
Killian Spillane scored a cracking goal which re-ignited the contest.
That goal came from a great piece of goal-keeping by Shane Ryan who seemed to stop Paddy Small’s shot going over the bar.
Kerry were now in free-flow and Spillane kicked them in front with just four minutes of normal time to play to lead for the first time.
Dublin are true champions and their frame of mind is always to play to the final whistle and it’s this quality and self-confidence that sees them nearly always getting something out of the game.
Down a man for over 42 second-half minutes and the Dubs still managed not to lose, which is an incredible achievement even by their lofty standards and it gives them another opportunity to complete the five.
I never subscribed to the general opinion before the game that this would be a one-sided affair and I felt that if Kerry could win the battle in the middle third, then they could actually beat the Dubs.
They had some very good goal chances as well as a saved penalty in the 12th minute.
There were so many poor wides in that first half, but Kerry are a very proud footballing county and I knew that they would be prepared well and confident of giving a really good account of themselves.
It will be another huge game on Saturday week and it is hard to know which team now has the advantage. The young Kerry players will be better again but Dublin too have huge room for improvement, especially in the forward line.
It was hugely enjoyable and a terrific advertisement for the game. With everything still to play for, Saturday week can’t come quick enough.