Tuesday 22 October 2019

Sky Blues join the pantheon with historic victory

Dublin 1-18 Kerry 0-15

Jack McCaffrey celebrates on the Croke Park pitch after Dublin successfully completed the 'Drive for Five' last night. Photo: Sam Barnes
Jack McCaffrey celebrates on the Croke Park pitch after Dublin successfully completed the 'Drive for Five' last night. Photo: Sam Barnes

Sean McGoldrick

Dublin footballers have joined the pantheon of sporting immortals. They are the first senior men's team in the 135-year history of the GAA to win five All-Ireland titles in-a-row, in either football or hurling.

This was their 29th All-Ireland win but, more significantly, it was their seventh Sam Maguire success in nine seasons, six of which have been master-minded by Jim Gavin.

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Dublin's Eoin Murchan puts away the only goal of the match. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin's Eoin Murchan puts away the only goal of the match. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Though it took two attempts to get over the line against Kerry, it actually enhances the achievement given that they survived playing with 14 men in the second half of the drawn decider.

There was no doubting their superiority on this occasion. After a nervous second quarter, during which Kerry wiped out a four-point advantage, a brilliant individual goal from Eoin Murchan seconds after the re-start set the tone for the second half.

Kerry did close the gap again to a point in the 45th minute, but Dublin kicked on, outscoring the Kingdom 0-7 to 0-2 during the remainder of the tie.

In the 47 championship games Dublin have played under Gavin's tutelage since 2013, they have won 43, drawn three and lost one - the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal. And last night they extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 37 games.

Dublin's Stephen Cluxton in action against Kerry's Paul Geaney. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Dublin's Stephen Cluxton in action against Kerry's Paul Geaney. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

These are astonishing figures which will probably never be broken, unless by Dublin themselves. Goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton has now skippered Dublin to six Sam Maguire successes, another record which is unlikely to ever be broken, apart from by Cluxton himself.

None of Kerry's six previous All-Ireland final losses to Dublin will hurt as much as this one.

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Their wounded pride will stem from two factors. Firstly, they missed a glorious chance of beating Dublin for the first time in championship football since 2009 in the drawn encounter.

Furthermore, being unable to stop their greatest rivals from snatching the one prize which so famously eluded Kerry 37 years ago - the five-in-a-row - will cut deeply into the Kingdom psyche.

As expected, neither team lined out as selected. Dublin left out Michael Darragh Macauley, which resulted in James McCarthy moving to midfield and Eoin Murchan coming into the defence.

Kerry, meanwhile, dropped their team captain, Gavin White. He was replaced in the half-forward line by Diarmuid O'Connor, who spent spells on Jack McCaffrey.

There were other significant changes in the match-ups, with Michael Fitzsimons given responsibility for marking David Clifford and John Small switching on to Seán O'Shea. Murchan was sweeper most of the time, though David Byrne and Johnny Cooper, who started at wing -back, also filled the role.

Right from the throw-in, which Dublin won, they looked more composed and consistently troubled the Kerry defence with Con O'Callaghan, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion doing the bulk of the damage. Significantly, Kerry made no effort to exert a full-court press on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts.

By the fifth minute the Dublin forwards had scored more from play than they managed in the entire drawn match as they raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 advantage. Kerry were slower out of the blocks but they underlined how dangerous they could be when Brian Ó Beaglaoich rode a couple of tackles and his dangerous cross was collected by Paul Geaney, who fired his shot over the bar.

But with Clifford beginning to demonstrate his class, Kerry clawed their way back into the contest. Between the 14th and 19th minutes they outscored Dublin 0-4 to 0-2 to make it a one-point game (0-7 to 0-6).

Kerry's massed defence was frustrating Dublin, whose policy of playing keep-ball was frustrating the crowds as well. But increasingly Kerry were turning over Dublin in possession and punishing them on the counter-attack.

One such instance in the 23rd minute resulted in a hugely controversial moment. Jack McCaffrey was turned over by Tom O'Sullivan and Kerry broke at speed, with full-back Tadhg Morley bearing down on goal when was pulled down by Con O'Callaghan just outside the penalty area.

It looked a black card offence but, after consulting with his umpires, the referee seemed caught in two minds and eventually ticked Fitzsimons, who wasn't involved.

Soon afterwards, at the other end, he waved away a stone-wall Dublin free. Dean Rock did, however, make it a two-point game five minutes before the break.

Kerry's counter-attacking continued to yield dividends, with Seán O'Shea's third free and a third point from Paul Geaney - after Ciaran Kilkenny kicked the ball straight to a Kerryman - leaving the sides level (0-10 each) at the break.

All of Dublin's first-half points came from play. They also landed three shots into the hands of Shane Ryan but Kerry didn't concede one scoreable free. At the other end Kerry kicked three wides but coughed up none of their re-starts.

Dublin introduced Diarmuid Connolly at half-time for McCaffrey, who picked up a knock in the first half.

In the reshuffle Brian Howard went to midfield while James McCarthy reverted to defence.

Many of the sell-out attendance who were still scrambling back to their seats missed one of the greatest ever goals seen in an All-Ireland final when, from the throw-in, Murchan gathered the ball and raced straight at the heart of the Kerry defence, out-sprinting everybody before planting the ball into the net.

O'Callaghan added his fourth point from play soon afterwards to give the Dubs a four-point advantage, but Kerry roared back, hitting three in-a-row - the last one a superb long-range effort from O'Shea - to leave it a one-point game again after 45 minutes.

Dublin's ability to hold possession and probe for openings was frustrating Kerry and their fans. Its value was underlined when, after a sustained period of passing, Kerry coughed up a score after Brian Fenton lost but then retained possession and offloaded to Paul Mannion, who pointed.

Scorers - Dublin: C O'Callaghan, C Kilkenny, P Mannion 0-4 each, E Murchan 1-0, D Rock 0-3 (1 '45), D Byrne, J McCarthy, N Scully 0-1 each. Kerry: D Clifford (1f), S O'Shea (3f) 0-5 each, P Geaney 0-4, A Spillane 0-1

Dublin: S Cluxton; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J Cooper; J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, C O'Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: D Connolly for McCaffrey (ht), P McMahon for Murchan (56), C Costello for Scully (58), C O'Sullivan for Byrne (68), K McManamon for Mannion (68), M D Macauley for Howard (70+4).

Kerry: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O'Sullivan; P Murphy, G Crowley, B Ó Beaglaoich; D Moran, J Barry; D O'Connor, S O'Shea, A Spillane; S O'Brien, P Geaney, D Clifford. Subs: G White for Spillane (51), J Sherwood for O Beaglaoich (51), T Walsh for O'Connor (56), K Spillane for Murphy (59), J O'Donoghue for Barry (65), G Moynihan for Crowley (68).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

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