Folks on the hill happy after Dublin shade it in a thriller
McManamon’s goal turned an epic game in Dublin’s favour
Dublin fans celebrate after beating Kerry in the All-Ireland senior championship semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Trust the old firm of Gaelic football to make us all feel young and supple. Dublin and Kerry took years off everybody in Croke Park during yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final, presenting a game that deserves to be framed and hung and whispered about in educated corners of old houses.
Kevin McManamon’s goal as the clock ticked onto the 70th minute turned an epic game in Dublin’s favour but it could just as easily have washed up on Kerry’s shore.
That there had to be a result one way or the other was, of course, a necessary evil. That it all shook out as a seven-point win for Dublin, however, was scant reflection of what had gone before.
Jim Gavin’s side prevailed in the end by 3-18 to 3-11 but if Kerry could sue a scoreline for libel, the damages would be immense.
Written off by the masses after their hangdog quarter-final win over Cavan but quietly fancied by a growing constituency as yesterday’s game approached, Kerry ran in three first-half goals and took a two-point lead into the break with them.
In front of a crowd of 81,553 – comfortably the biggest of the summer – they stunned Dublin with their speed of thought and the silken movement in their forward line. If this was to be the last dance for some of their older Kerry heads, they were going out doing the cha-cha rather than settling for a safe old waltz.
When they scored three of the first four points after half-time, they had Dublin in real trouble. But Gavin’s side have found answers to every question so far this summer and they gradually found a rhythm.
They dominated the third quarter and arrived at the hour-mark a point up. And when Kerry got their noses in front with two points of their own, they found an equaliser late on through Diarmuid Connolly.
The endgame was spine-tingling. A Dublin kick-out, a tooth-and-claw scrap in midfield. Two Kerrymen going for the same ball, Michael Darragh Macauley getting a stray hand to it and flicking it to McManamon.
Fully 60 yards in front of him but not a Kerry player to be seen. Hill 16 sucking him towards them, the whole stadium frozen in time.
A shot, a goal, an earthquake. Or at least that’s how it felt. Connolly added a point, Eoghan O’Gara nailed a goal with the last kick. Nobody heard the final whistle.
“I just said I’d try and aim for the crossbar and it might sneak under or go over,” said McManamon afterwards. “At least we’d get something out of it.” What they got was an All-Ireland final spot against Mayo on September 22nd. Summer’s story has only a single stanza to go.