Six days that shaped the 'Decade of the Dubs' - Day 6: 2019 All-Ireland final, Dublin 1-16 Kerry 1-16
THE clock in Croke Park ticked 65:45 when Killian Spillane curled one over from the left to put Kerry 1-16 to 1-15 up in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final.
When David Gough blew his final whistle, it read 78:31.
At that moment, there was much to unpack. A thrilling final with many big incidents to scrutinise and new theories to explore.
Had Kerry squandered their chance? Were Dublin on borrowed time?
Jonny Cooper’s first half sending off initially divided opinion, the red card dished out by a referee who had come under unfair scrutiny in the preamble to the game.
In the days immediately after, Gough would receive near unanimous praise for his clear-headed application of the rules under particularly pressurised circumstances.
Jack McCaffrey’s stunning individual display won him a bitter-sweet Man of the Match award, scoring 1-3 from play from wing-back.
Stephen Cluxton had denied Paul Geaney a goal from a penalty but the more times we saw it, the better his razor thin deflection from Paul Murphy’s shot looked.
Seán O’Shea place-kicking was impeccable. David Moran ruled the skies around the middle.
And Kerry’s markers; Tadhg Morley and Tom O’Sullivan had kept Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion to 0-2 and 0-1 respectively.
Still, replays in finals can be weirdly unpredictable events.
More often than not, they follow unexpected paths.
Smart managers with immediate access to a great depth of data generally prevent their teams stepping in the same traps twice in a row.
Normally painfully inscrutable, Peter Keane let slip afterwards that perhaps, just maybe, Kerry had fancied themselves coming up to Dublin that afternoon.
"Did we think we had a chance coming here today? Sure, of course. If you’ve two dogs in any race, one the dogs might get a heart attack and the other fella will walk home," he pointed out.
"You’ve a chance every time you’re out there."
Naturally enough, Jim Gavin wasn’t exactly cock-a-hoop about how his own team had played, although there was one element of their performance he felt worthy of praise.
"The resilience the Dublin players showed," he highlighted, "to be on the ropes as such and to still keep moving and keep trying to create scoring chances and keep turning over the ball, that’s obviously the impressive piece."
And had we examined those 12 minutes and 46 seconds between Spillane’s point and Gough’s last whistle in more granular detail, we might have had a clearer picture of how things would transpire 13 days later.
OF that 12 minutes and 46 seconds, the ball was out of play for 4:27, the longest stoppages caused by a triple substitution, a Hawkeye ruling and the general disruption prior to Dean Rock’s late, late free.
During that time, each team had six possessions.
But of the eight minutes and 19 seconds the ball was alive, Dublin owned it for 5:13, Kerry for just 3:06.
Remarkably, given they were operating with 14 men for all of the frenetic second half, Dublin dominated that period everywhere but the scoreboard.
The play was high-octane and pressurised but at a second, deeper glance, there’s no question which team were the more productive and by extension, likelier to win, in that breathless spell.
Rock’s equaliser in the 74th minute was the only score either team got in that time.
But in all, Dublin made six scoring chances.
Not long after Spillane’s point, Brian Howard screwed a shot wide on the right hand side in his last act before making way for Diarmuid Connolly.
Cormac Costello thought he’d equalised soon after before Hawkeye made the necessary correction.
Connolly had a shot under pressure straight in front of the posts from 47 metres, but it tailed a foot right of the Kerry posts.
Paddy Small dropped a similarly lengthy kick short and then Rock had his late, improbable chance to win it from an acute angle right under the Cusack Stand.
By contrast, Kerry never got a shot away. Not a single kick at the Dublin goal.
And only once did they have possession of the ball in the Dublin ’45, when Brian Fenton and Jack McCaffrey put the squeeze on first Seán O’Shea and then Jack Sherwood for a turnover.
That was one of five vital dispossessions Dublin forced in the aforementioned phase, three of which were executed by Dublin substitutes.
Kevin McManamon worked two; one on Jack Barry near the Hogan Stand sideline and another steal from Moran, who had galloped into the Dublin half in the 74th minute in possession with Kerry a point up.
Vitally, Connolly stripped Jonathan Lyne right in front of the Kerry bench, the only turnover that Gough may have been tempted to blow for a free, albeit more for Lyne’s reaction than any infraction by Connolly.
Given what was at stake, given the concession of a free might have been enough to end the contest, five turnovers is an amazing defensive output from a team of 14 men against one of the calibre of Kerry.
They hunted Kerry men into every corner of the pitch.
The Kingdom meanwhile, only got the ball back after Dublin kicked it wide.
They had no shots on goal, forced no Dublin turnovers and had only one entry into the scoring zone.
One of the teams had 14 men but there was no mistaking which one was hanging on.
By the following Tuesday, Cluxton was out with his laptop and his goalkeeping coach, Josh Moran, scrutinising his footwork for Killian Spillane’s goal.
He had retained 19 of 25 kick outs, saved a penalty from Geaney and brushed Murphy’s shot onto his crossbar.
But Dublin’s captain was taking personal responsibility for anything that could plausibly be improved upon.
Many who had played under Gavin previously briefed that that whatever miscalculations had been made the first day would be detected and corrected before the replay.
Management sat down with Fenton and analysed his performance from different angles, asking him direct questions about whether his output in the draw had reflected his ability.
Mick Fitzsimons, a more natural physical match for David Clifford, was tasked with tracking the mercurial Kerry captain.
And Ciarán Kilkenny was issued a different set of instructions: take on his man, attack the Kerry goal.
If there was one, albeit intangible, feature of Dublin’s game that separated them from those who challenged them for their seven All-Irelands in the last decade, it was their ability to pull off the big plays at the most important pressurised of situations.
McManamon and Cluxton in 2011. Alan Brogan in 2015. Costello in 2016.
Rock and James McCarthy in 2017.
But more than any other passage of play, those 12 minutes and 46 seconds, in keeping Kerry scoreless, set the scene for history.
Scorers- Dublin: D Rock 0-10, (6f, 1 ’45), J McCaffrey 1-3, P Mannion 0-2, C O’Callaghan 0-1. Kerry: S O’Shea 0-10 (4f, 3 ’45), K Spillane 1-1, D Clifford 0-2, T Walsh, G Crowley 0-1
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Byrne, J Cooper, M Fitzsimons; J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; C O’Callaghan, D Rock, P Mannion. Subs: P Small for Macauley (52), D Connolly for Howard (68), C Costello for Mannion (67), K McManamon for Scully (71)
KERRY: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, G Crowley, B Ó Beaglaoich; D Moran, J Barry; G White, S O’Shea, A Spillane, D Clifford, P Geaney, S O’Brien. Subs: K Spillane for A Spillane (45), J Sherwood for White (49), T Walsh for Ó Beaglaoich (52), J Lyne for Crowley (69), D Moynihan for Barry (73), M Griffith for O’Brien (73)
REF: David Gough (Meath)