McManamon takes up the crossbar challenge and wins
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 1/9/2013Dublin vs KerryKerry's Peter Crowley and Michael Darragh MacAuley of DublinMandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
The last thing the Dublin footballers did before the throw-in was a brief exercise of sprinting on the spot, emphasising high knee lifts, followed by a few swift leaps into the air – all perfectly similar to what someone like Usain Bolt would do before settling into his starting blocks.
The only problem after that was Dublin were left in their starting blocks, or at least left chasing Kerry’s electrifying start which saw them strike three goals – including one penalty – inside the opening 20 minute stride.
But all races – even sprints - aren’t decided until the finish line, when Dublin finally found top gear and the best time of all to strike a goal – in this case another late winner for substitute Kevin McManamon, in the 70th minute. That Eoghan O’Gara still found time to strike another put pure gloss on the end result and yet it was McManamon’s effort which will feature in his dreams yet again – and likewise in all of Kerry’s worst nightmares.
“We were all saying on the bench what a great game to watch, and begging to be involved,” McManamon later said, still beaming by the nature of his impact. But he paid tribute too to the man who provided the ball, Michael Darragh Macauley, in quite possibly the masterstroke of the entire game.
‘A great fist’
“Yeah, Mick made a great fist, put his body on the line, to get a ball to me, and I just snuck off the back,” said McManamon. “I just started running, I suppose. I thought the defenders were coming for me. So I just said ‘try aim for the crossbar, and it might sneak under or over . . . and we might get something out of it . . . ’ So it’s great to come away with the win when we didn’t maybe play as well as we might.”
Macauley was as proud of the end result as he was his crucial intervention in setting up McManamon: “Yeah, this is where you want to be, this is what it’s all about. It is very tough losing All-Ireland semi-final. I’ve been there and lost two of them, and it’s not easy, so we’re really looking forward to another final now.”
Kerry’s dream start left Dublin wondering what was going wrong, although Macauley was adamant their plan was to stick with the plan, no matter how worrying things got.
“Yeah, you have to stick to the game plan. It wasn’t ideal but I think the lads showed great resolve to come through that and it was great to see. You have to believe in what you are doing. If lads fold or think they can do their own thing it’s not worth anything so lads stuck to the game plan and we came out on top.”
Defensively the holes in Dublin’s game plan appeared more gaping than at any time this summer, with James McCarthy happy to admit as much – knowing it means giving Mayo even further attention in the final showdown in three weeks time.
“I really thought we tightened up there in the second-half at the back and that helped us get over the line. Even when Kerry hit us with the goals we said, ‘look, keep going.’ We just grinded it out, kept going, even when we weren’t playing particularly well at the time. But we battled through it and showed a bit of spirit.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year and it’s working for us. I mean with the goals it was more about stupid mistakes, fellas switching off, but we’ll not get away with that the next day against Mayo. I think it was just lapses of concentration and fellas being a bit loose on their man but in the second-half we cut that out.
“But this game, probably, was all about getting there, in the final. And we’re just delighted to be back in the big day. That’s what we’re in the game for, to win All-Ireland medals. We have a chance now the next day to do it again as a group. Everybody knows we want to win our second one.”