Dublin make a late point


Dublin 1-12 Kildare 1-11:DUBLIN ARE still finding new ways to finish matches. Yesterday’s GAA Leinster football semi-final, having been apparently won by Dublin in exhausting circumstances with the team down to 14 for nearly the entire second half, was effectively reduced to a version of “next score wins”.

Eighteen years ago when Dublin manager Pat Gilroy was a player, the county had to pull something similar out of the hat, also in a Leinster semi-final, and Jack Sheedy obliged.

The problem for Gilroy’s side yesterday however, was that they didn’t really look likely to get the vital point. Kildare, their bolt looking well shot during a panicky and wild final quarter, found 1-1 in two minutes at the end of the match to level the scores at 1-11 each and had clear momentum.

Once more however, the match lurched unexpectedly. The intervention of referee Cormac Reilly in the last minute, calling a free from distance against Andriú Mac Lochlainn on Bernard Brogan, gave the latter the ideal opportunity to convert the winning score.

Kildare were wearily adding the incident to the lengthy list of issues with officialdom they have collected during Kieran McGeeney’s term but the manager himself did admit his team had contributed to their own downfall by not taking their chances: kicking 50 per cent more wides than Dublin and dropping at least half a dozen shots short.

Dublin were more clinical and, with Alan Brogan again in terrific form directing play and working the length of the pitch, looked in control for most of the match, allowing for the intense pressure in the second half.

The Leinster Council could also be forgiven a wistful sigh as a replay would presumably have drawn roughly another 60,000 to Croke Park and supplemented the coffers in these hard times.

Dublin would however have been crestfallen to have lost or drawn this match. They looked clearly the better team in the first half, which they won by six, 1-7 to 0-4, and then having coped with adversity and worked relentlessly to defend a shrinking lead while a man short they spilled the initiative and nearly paid a high price.

Kildare have become a very hard side to put away and even though they weren’t making it happen – just one score in 20 minutes, from the reliably accurate Emmet Bolton, during the second half – they were able to conjure up the equalising shots.

Eamonn Callaghan scored both – the goal from a long run that Dublin’s backs will be disappointed not to have prevented and a rasping diagonal shot that arrowed into the corner and the point after a nimble turn away from his marker.

The backs-to-the-wall commitment that ultimately did win the match will have pleased Gilroy. It was necessitated by the red card issued to Eoghan O’Gara five minutes into the second half. This arose from a second yellow – the first for persistent fouling was shown in the first half – with which there could be few complaints.

Michael Dara Macauley sustained a badly broken finger at the end of the first half and if the work rate of replacement Eamonn Fennell and the improving Denis Bastick was beyond reproach, the team lost some dynamism in the process.

The defence was excellent. In the corner, debutant Paul Conlon saw off Alan Smith before half an hour had passed and full back Rory O’Carroll gave Alan Brogan a run for man of the match. In goal, Stephen Cluxton controlled the high ball, maintained superiority on kick-outs and popped a couple of dead ball awards over the bar.

The beginning of the first half saw Dublin threatening more than they achieved. Bernard Brogan was well-marked by late call-up Ollie Lyons until he had to retire injured and the scores didn’t exactly flow. In an early reversal of expectations it was Kildare who fired off a three-minute salvo to take the lead by the end of the first quarter – Eoghan O’Flaherty, who went on to play a significant role with three points from play, leading the charge.

Dublin’s goal was set up and finished by Paul Flynn – having pick-pocketed the ball from Gary White, played a one-two and soloed in on goal. He appeared to have lost possession only to regain it and crash home the goal.

Kildare started the second half briskly with a point from Eoghan O’Flaherty. He added a second after O’Gara’s red card but Kildare couldn’t get the margin down beyond two. There could have been more goals for Dublin but Alan Brogan had a shot blocked and then took a point when his brother was closing in on goal.

There was surprise that John Doyle, torn between his roles as a centrefield guv’nor and top-class finisher, spent so much of the match in a withdrawn role, at times in the second half looking like he was actually acting as a sweeper in front of Dublin’s short-handed attack – a role forced on him to an extent by an injury-curtailed preparation for the match.

DUBLIN: 1 S Cluxton (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 45); 2 P Conlon, 3 R O’Carroll, 4 M Fitzsimons; 5 J McCarthy, 6 G Brennan, 7 K Nolan; 9 MD Macauley, 8 D Bastick; 10 P Flynn (1-1), 11 A Brogan (0-2), 12 B Cullen (0-1); 13. D Connolly, 14 E O’Gara, 15 B Brogan (0-6, 0-5 frees). Subs: 21 E Fennell for Macauley (half-time), 25 K McManamon for Connolly (54 mins), 23 D Lally for Flynn (62 mins), 27 R McConnell for Bastick (66 mins), 22 B Cahill for Cullen (68 mins). Yellow cards: O’Gara (24 mins and 40 mins) O’Carroll (64 mins). Red card: O’Gara (40 mins).

KILDARE: 1 S Connolly; 3 M Foley, 4 H McGrillen, 17 O Lyons; 12 E Callaghan (1-2), 5 B White, 7 E Bolton (0-1); 8 J Doyle (0-1, free), 9 H Lynch; 10 M O’Flaherty, 11 E O’Flaherty (0-4, 0-1 free), 20 P O’Neill; 15 J Kavanagh, 18 R Sweeney (0-1), 13 A Smith. Subs: 2 A Mac Lochlainn for White (29 mins), 25 R Kelly (0-2) for Smith (29 mins), 24 C Brophy for Lyons (39 mins), 21 S Hurley for Sweeney (48 mins), 14 T O’Connor for Hurley (65 mins). Yellow cards: Lyons (37 mins), Kelly (40 mins), Sweeney (45 mins), Lynch (64 mins).

Referee: C Reilly (Meath).