Dublin: 5-17 Kildare: 1-15
Oh Lordy Lord. A calm summer evening in the capital and Dublin declare a riot, winning a 12th successive Leinster football title and giving Kildare the sort of ruthless hiding that in the first-half anyway might have come with some sort of explicit content warning.
Five first-half goals, four different goal scorers, Dublin at one early stage threatened to score more goals than points by the end. Leading by 16 points ahead at half-time, winning in the end by 14, it was vintage Dublin in every sense. Kildare’s resistance was almost entirely futile.
Confidence further restored, sharpness and slick passing too, Dublin finished with nine different scorers, Con O’Callaghan in searing form throughout, leading the way from the front with his 1-5.
Their 17th provincial title in 18 seasons, now 61 in all, this one came against the narrative of a Kildare team that may actually challenge them for it, especially after what they did to Dublin in Newbridge last February. Dublin won this same tie last summer by nine points, so it is backwards instead it seems Kildare must go.
Dublin’s five first-half goals into the Hill 16 end tell you everything you want or else don’t want to know about this game. Kildare it appeared were settling in okay, winning plenty of early possession, Paul Gribbin helping himself to the first point of the game after three minutes. Then Dublin responded with 2-2.
After Dean Rock’s opening free, Dublin began to press forward hard and play out increasingly wide, O’Callaghan winning possession close to goal, latching on to a brilliant cross pass from Sean Bugler, fairly roasting Mick O’Grady, selflessly passing off to Ciarán Kilkenny, who duly smashed the net in the fifth minute.
Brian Fenton sailed up for his first from play, then on seven minutes Rock’s shot came off the upright and with that Cormac Costello pounced for goal number two. Seven minutes gone and Dublin were up by seven points.
The third goal broke Kildare hearts, Kevin Feely cleanly giving the ball away in the middle of the field, in the 16th minute, holding his head in his hands in his own disbelief. Dublin immediately attacked with vengeance again, Costello finishing the move with his second goal; 3-3 to 0-2.
The fourth goal came on 20 minutes, Lee Gannon pressing forward right of call, the unmarked John Small finishing this time with a look of mild surprise at how easy it came; 4-3 to 0-3.
Then in the 26th minute. Bugler again involved in the build-up, O’Callaghan latched on to a pass from Costello to make it five — 5-5 to Kildare’s 0-4. Whatever was left of the atmosphere in Croke Park at that stage evaporated completely, Kildare manager a helpless figure on the sideline as he tried to rally some spirit.
So they switched ends Dublin in front by 16 points, 5-7 to 0-6, and you could almost hear Dessie Farrell in the Dublin dressing-room telling them to maybe ease up just a little bit.
Still Kildare were too easily torn asunder, even when Dublin did appear to back off that little bit. Kildare got one goal back midway through the second half, Flynn setting this one up with a neat pass to Kevin Flynn, who dispatched to Jimmy Hyland to finish off.
Dublin didn’t look too bothered. Kildare discipline was lacking too, Kevin Flynn later black-carded, the likes of Cribbin having one of those evenings he’ll want to forget.
Kildare arrived seeking their first Leinster football title since 2000, when they beat Dublin after a replay, and after doing enough to see off Louth and then Westmeath hopes were building.
No one expected Daniel Flynn would be held scoreless, or that Kildare would concede five goals inside the first half-hour.
After beating Wexford and then Meath by a combined 36 points, Dublin were clearly building some momentum, their display here indicating a real upward curve. Lee Gannon is showing his potential and Tom Lahiff too, Niall Scully showing plenty of his old hunger when coming off the bench.
So Dublin are back on familiar ground, as impressive and ruthless as they’ve ever been. Oh Lordy.
Dublin: E Comerford; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, L Gannon (0-2); J Small (1-0), J McCarthy (capt), B Howard; B Fenton (0-3), T Lahiff; S Bugler, L O’Dell, C Kilkenny (1-0); C Costello (2-1), C O’Callaghan (1-5, one mark), D Rock (0-4, all frees).
Subs: N Scully (0-1) for O’Dell (45 mins), C Murphy for Murchan (50 mins, inj), A Byrne (0-1) for Rock (59 mins), J Cooper for Lahiff (65 mins), B O’Leary for Costello (70 mins).
Kildare: M Donnellan; M O’Grady (capt), S Ryan, R Houlihan; T Archbold, J Murray, K Flynn (0-1); K Feely (0-2, one mark), K O’Callaghan; A Beirne, B McCormack (0-5, one mark), P Gribbin (0-1); D Kirwan (0-1), D Flynn, J Hyland (1-4, three frees).
Subs: D Hyland for Murray, P Woodgate (0-1 a free) for Kirwan (both half-time), P McDermot for Cribbin (48 mins), D Malone for Archbold (60 mins), F Conway for Beirne (68 mins),
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)