Moran's point rescues Dublin in final thriller
DUBLIN 0-14 KILDARE 0-14 QUALITY STREET emptied its box of goodies all around Croke Park yesterday, providing 50,066 appreciative fans with the sweetest of tastes as they enjoyed a truly absorbing contest, followed by the promise of a whole lot more to come in the replay next Saturday week.
In a season where dreary mediocrity has been the dominant currency, this Bank of Ireland Leinster final shone a blazing arc light into some dark caves and discovered real treasure.
So much so, that neutrals were quietly pleased when Tadgh Fennin's last minute kick, for what would almost certainly have been the winning point, drifted wide of the Dublin posts.
It's not that they were wishing the Castlemitchel man bad luck - instead they were displaying a shameless, but understandable, self-interest in returning to Croke Park for a second captivating instalment.
Had Kildare snatched a late winner, it would have been hugely unfair on a long list of Dublin's heroes, led by the indestructible, Brian Stynes, the opportunistic Jason Sherlock, the energetic Colin Moran, the resolute Jonathon Magee and the ultra-reliable Paddy Christie.
But then a Dublin win would have been equally unjust on several Kildare players, including defiant wing-backs, John Finn and Anthony Rainbow, the industrious Dermot Earley, the hard-working Willie McCreery and the clever Martin Lynch.
No, this was a game which was kitted out for a draw, long before Paddy Russell - who incidentally did not have one of his better days - blew the final whistle.
Russell has delivered some excellent refereeing performance in Croke Park and elsewhere, but yesterday some of his decisions were quite baffling and led to frustration and confusion among both sets of players.
Five were booked - Martin Lynch, Jason Sherlock, Glen Ryan, John Doyle and Paul Curran - but that might give a false impression of a game which was fought with relentless ferocity but total honesty.
The tackling was tough and committed, but never once wandered beyond the levels accepted in a game where the stakes were so incredibly high.
Dublin were desperate to win their first Leinster final in five years, while Kildare - the 1998 champions - were obsessed with the dream of reclaiming the No 1 spot. It was always going to produce a shuddering collision, but there was an added bonus as the quality at various times was, by some way, the best of the season.
However, Dublin left with one irritating niggle occupying them. They had seen Brian Stynes and Jim Gavin miss two relatively easy frees each, which in such a tight game, could have been fatal.
Both kick frees off their hands, which increases the risk factor and while Dublin got away with four bad misses yesterday, manager, Tom Carr, will be assessing the kicking options very carefully for the replay.
It was a pity that Stynes marred a truly memorable performance with two bad misses, the second of which came in the 66th minute at a time when the sides were level for the fifth time.
Despite that miss, Stynes can be extremely pleased with his contribution in general play which combined high fielding, good passing and finishing with a solid work ethic. He left the action a few minutes from the finish, having run himself into himself to near-exhaustion.
His partner, Ciaran Whelan, did some fine things too. but looked as if he needed to game to re-harness his skills after injury. He is likely to be far more influential in the replay.
Both sides will feel frustrated that they didn't inflict serious damage during their spells in ascendancy. Kildare, for instance, should have been ahead by far more than two points after 25 minutes.
Although Dublin scored first, Kildare settled much quicker into their routine and picked up where they left off against Offaly, angling over four points in the first seven minutes.
One, in particular, was a thing of beauty and sent panic signals ringing through the Dublin ranks. Anthony Rainbow stole quietly into an attacking position while his marker, Senan Connell, remained at home, watching ruefully as the Suncroft man fired over the bar. It will not have pleased Tom Carr.
Kildare should have had a goal in the 21st minute when Padraig Brennan lost his marker, Coman Goggins, soloed through and fired a cracking shot for goal, only to see it bounce back off the upright.
So, from a position where they should have been five points clear, Kildare found themselves just two ahead and facing a Dublin side which was energised by its good fortune.
They had lost Ian Robertson through injury but sub, Vinny Murphy, minimised the impact with a good performance.
Stynes and Whelan took control around midfield and helped build up an impressive momentum, which saw Dublin kick three points to take the lead by the 33rd minute.
John Doyle equalised a minute later, ending an 18-minute scoring drought for Kildare, leaving it 0-6 each at the interval.
Dublin re-posted Jason Sherlock to centre-forward for the second half and were rewarded with a vintage display. He was very influential in Dublin's opening thrust, which saw them kick three points in the opening six minutes.
It was character-testing time for Kildare and they responded quickly and efficiently. They drove at Dublin in waves and their equalising point from Ronan Sweeney in the 50th minute might well have been a goal.
He had a clear sight on goal, but his shot flew over the bar, giving Dublin their second big let-off of the day.
Dublin went back in front twice, but were pegged back by a disciplined and methodical Kildare effort and when Martin Lynch kicked their 14th point three minutes from the end, it looked as if they might even edge home.
However, Dublin didn't panic and worked the ball upfield before presenting Colin Moran with a chance to shoot the equaliser which he duly did with admirable poise. A fitting finale to a game which will sit neatly among the great Leinster finals.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Brian Stynes (Dublin)
SCORERS - Dublin: B Stynes, J Sherlock, C Moran 0-3, J Gavin (f), C Whelan, D Farrell, J Magee, V Murphy 0-1 each. Kildare: P Brennan 0-5 (4f), T Fennin, J Doyle 0-3 (2f) 0-3 each, A Rainbow, R Sweeney, M Lynch 0-1 each.
DUBLIN - D Byrne; S Ryan, P Christie, C Goggins; P Curran, J Magee, P Andrews; B Stynes, C Whelan; S Connell, D Farrell, J Gavin; C Moran, I Robertson, J Sherlock. Subs: V Murphy for Robertson (17), E Sheehy for Connell (45), D Homan for Stynes (67).
KILDARE - C Byrne; K Doyle, R Quinn, B Lacey; J Finn, G Ryan, A Rainbow; M Lynch, D Earley; E McCormack, J Doyle, W McCreery; P Brennan, R Sweeney, T Fennin. Subs: B Murphy for McCormack (56), D Hughes for Lacey (61), A McHugh for Sweeney (68).
REF - P Russell (Tipperary)