Thriller in Tralee as Kerry edge Dublin after pre-match talk dominated by reappearance of Jason Sherlock on bench
ALLIANZ FL DIVISION 1
Kerry 1-18 Dublin 2-14
Kerry, the young pretenders to Dublin’s All-Ireland throne, delivered an audacious statement of intent in front of a raucous 11,982 spectators in Tralee tonight.
Not alone did they inflict a second defeat of this nascent Allianz Football League campaign on the All-Ireland champions, they delivered a warning that the Drive for Five is anything but a September shoo-in.
It all ended in some unseemly chaos, a melee erupting in centrefield after referee Maurice Deegan blew for full-time exactly at the end of the signalled five extra minutes.
Order was soon restored and both teams headed for their respective dressing-rooms with plenty to mull over, positive and negative.
In fairness, what had preceded that late eruption was a spring classic. Kerry looked to have established firm control when leading by five (1-15 to 2-7) when sub Tommy Walsh pointed on 42 minutes.
They were still four up when Seán O’Shea nailed his eighth point (and seventh from a placed ball) in the 57th minute.
But, this being Dublin, they refused to slip quietly into the Kerry night. A couple of Kerry wides and then a double-yellow red card for visiting defender Mick Fitzsimons were followed by four unanswered Dublin points from Brian Fenton, a Paul Mannion free and a Cormac Costello brace – the latter equaliser from a 73rd minute free.
If anything, it seemed that a strong-finishing Dublin might sneak it. Instead, Stephen O’Brien and David Moran combined for corner-back Peter Crowley, of all people, to fist what would prove a 74th minute winner.
Dublin had a late shot at parity but Fenton, under pressure, shot wide.
There was drama even before the throw-in when Jason Sherlock turned up as part of the Dublin camp for their Allianz Football League showdown with Kerry.
Since a newspaper report first appeared yesterday morning, claiming Sherlock was no longer part of Jim Gavin’s management team, and with media unable to contact Dublin’s team spokesperson for official comment, there was a widespread assumption that he was indeed gone.
But this was dramatically countered by Jayo’s presence in Austin Stack Park this evening, with eir Sport footage showing the 1995 All-Ireland hero coming off the Dublin team bus beforehand.
Sherlock was not involved for Dublin’s opening two fixtures in Division 1 – a day-one defeat away to Monaghan and last Saturday night’s Croke Park victory over Galway.
On those occasions, his usual match-day role as team ‘runner’ was filled by fellow selector Paul Clarke.
It may be the first half of February, but the significance attached to this spring clash of ancient rivals was underlined by the fact that the main stand was full well over an hour before the 7pm throw-in.
Under new boss Peter Keane, the hosts were hoping to protect their 100pc record. But while overcoming Tyrone and Cavan fuelled the ‘feelgood’ factor surrounding this generation of gilded youth, wise Kerry folk knew this was the first genuine test.
After all, in Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s swansong campaign, their Croker encounter last March had ended in 12-point defeat – Kerry's heaviest reversal since Páidí Ó Sé’s All-Ireland champions had lost to Tyrone by 12 points in November, 2000.
A measure of Dublin’s intent could be gleaned from their actual starting 15. Three players who made their first league starts against Galway - Liam Flatman, Seán Bugler and Ryan Basquel - had been named in the ‘programme’ team but their places went to Con O’Callaghan, Brian Howard and Darren Gavin, albeit this represented a first start for the latter.
Kerry confined themselves to one 11th hour switch, David Moran making way for Gavin O’Brien.
If anything, all the pre-match drama was actually eclipsed by a bewildering good first 35 minutes.
When everyone came up for half-time oxygen, observers were struggling to remember the last time Dublin leaked 12 scores in one half. And yet they only trailed by two points (1-11 to 2-6) and were doubtless thankful to be that close after a thrilling display by the hosts, who seemed intent on teasing out any aerial weakness in the Dublin full-back line.
Kerry led 0-6 to 0-5 when Stephen O’Brien pounced for their goal in the 23rd minute. It stemmed from a teasingly high and angled deliverby Dara Moynihan; Diarmuid O’Connor arrived beyond the far post to get a touch and there was O’Brien rushing in to shoot first-time to the net.
Little over a minute later, Dublin had responded like the champions they are, O’Callaghan weaving past a couple of Kerry tacklers before his piledriver took a wicked deflection past ‘keeper Shane Ryan.
Kerry’s thrilling riposte was to rattle off four points (via Tom O’Sullivan, two Seán O’Shea frees and Moynihan) in double-quick time. Yet, with Dublin seemingly on the ropes, Paul Mannion gave them a lifeline, bursting in from the right flank, past Brian Ó Beaglaíoch, and then unleashing a low left-footed shot inside the near post.
SCORERS - Kerry: S O’Shea 0-8 (6f, 1 ‘45’), S O’Brien 1-1, P Geaney, D Moynihan 0-2 each, T O’Sullivan, G O’Brien, T Walsh, P Crowley 0-1 each. Dublin: D Rock 0-5 (4f), P Mannion 1-2 (0-1m, 0-1f), J McCarthy 0-3, C O’Callaghan 1-0, C Costello 0-2 (1f), D Gavin, B Fenton 0-1 each.
KERRY: S Ryan; P Crowley, J Sherwood, B Ó Beaglaíoch; T Morley, P Murphy, T O’Sullivan; J Barry, A Spillane; D Moynihan, S O’Shea, G O’Brien; D O’Connor, S O’Brien, P Geaney. Subs: T Walsh for O’Connor (ht), M Griffin for Spillane (53), G Crowley for Geaney (55), D Moran for Morley (60), M Geaney for G O’Brien (70).
DUBLIN: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, E Murchan, E Lowndes; J McCarthy, J Cooper, J Small; B Fenton, D Gavin; N Scully, C O’Callaghan, B Howard; P Mannion, D Rock, C Costello. Subs: P Andrews for Lowndes (ht), J McCaffrey for Cooper (47), K McManamon for Rock (61), P Flynn for Scully (61), MD Macauley for Gavin (61).
REF: M Deegan (Laois).