Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) 1-11 Glen (Derry) 1-9
It’s likely Kilmacud Crokes would have preferred to avoid another dramatic climax to the AIB All-Ireland football final but on this occasion it worked out for the Dublin champions, who won the club’s third title after some terrifying late scares.
It took a brilliant save in the last minute of injury-time from Conor Ferris, who endured such a traumatic end to last year’s final when getting caught in possession in the last minute and lighting the fuse on Kilcoo’s winning goal. He had earlier saved from replacement Stevie O’Hara, when one-on-one.
The very definition of redemption, as he acknowledged.
Further controversy ensued after the resulting 45 had dropped for Conleth McGuckian and his shot whistled narrowly wide and the match ended. It wasn’t long before social media was alive with photographic evidence that the winners had 16 players on the field when the 45 was being taken.
The extra man was full forward Dara Mullin, who was selected as TG4 Man of the Match. He was standing on the line after officially being substituted by Tom Fox just before the kick was taken.
By coincidence he had stopped a late attempt at goal in similar circumstances at the end of the semi-final win over Kerins O’Rahilly’s. The rules on the matter have been re-written since the days when any breach of the match regulations on playing numbers meant forfeiting the match.
Now there are options to address the situation from forfeiture to a replay being ordered to a fine – “depending on the circumstances,” according to Rule 6.44. It would require Glen to register an objection – which their manager Malachy O’Rourke ruled out on a personal basis, while not speaking for the club.
For the moment, though, the Dublin champions have rounded off a year of introspection and regret by winning the title, snatched from them at the death last year.
It was a predictably claustrophobic contest. Winning manager Robbie Brennan sprang a surprise by starting Dublin All-Ireland winner Paul Mannion after nearly four months out with injury. This apparent boost didn’t prevent the Derry champions from staging an opening blitz.
It was Kilmacud’s celebrated Galway recruit Shane Walsh, who lost possession in the opening minute and the turnover culminated in Jack Doherty running hard at the defence – as he did several times during the match – and passing to Danny Tallon who finished for a 40-second goal.
By the 15th minute the led 1-3 to 0-1, the single score coming from Craig Dias, who would kick a couple of wides afterwards but also put in an impressive stint at centerfield, delaying until the second half, Glen’s expected superiority.
Mannion was clearly rusty and hit the post with a straightforward free but Walsh came more into the match and calmly converted a 16th-minute penalty after Ryan Dougan took down Shane Cunningham.
The Dublin champions took over and finished the half with a 64 per cent possession count. Their defence got to grips with matters and Glen didn’t score for 21 minutes either side of half-time.
This tendency to run dry came against the Derry men later on as well. After a stirring third quarter saw them regain the initiative – Conor Glass and Emmett Bradley getting the upper hand at centrefield and Jack Doherty posing problems for Rory O’Carroll with his direct running – to lead 1-9 to 1-7 in the 48th minute.
Kilmacud weren’t being cut adrift but struggled to score. Walsh hit the bar with a fisted point attempt, Mannion was wide with a free and Adrian Jones had a close-range shot saved.
Just as Glen looked on the precipice of achievement, the Dublin champions found their scoring touch: Dara Mullins claimed a mark and scored, Walsh hit two frees and Cian O’Connor finished a good movement. The two-point margin was no guarantee as Kilamcud knew only too well but they kept it intact.
For Robbie Brennan, who had installed Kilcoo’s trophy presentation as his screensaver after last year, what hadn’t killed them had made them stronger.
“That’s one of the proudest things. We said on Thursday that probably and possibly last year should have broken us, realistically. Not that we lost but how we lost. It should have broken us as a group and management but it didn’t.
“We took a bit of strength from that as it went on through the weeks and months, as the championship started building. It’s such fine margins. We could be sitting here having lost again.”
He shed light on the selection of Mannion, which had only come into focus the previous week.
“How he’s done it, I genuinely have no idea. It’s not a lie. We weren’t stringing people along – he was never, ever, ever in our plans until last Saturday. One of those things.”
KILMACUD CROKES: Conor Ferris; Dan O’Brien (0-1), Theo Clancy, Micheál Mullin; Cillian O’Shea, Andrew McGowan, Rory O’Carroll; Ben Shovlin, Craig Dias (0-1); Adrian Jones, Shane Walsh (1-3, goal penalty, two frees and a 45), Dara Mullin (0-2); Paul Mannion (0-1 free), Hugh Kenny, Shane Cunningham (capt; 0-2). Subs: Cian O’Connor (0-1) for Kenny (47 mins), Shane Horan for Jones (50 mins), Luke Ward for Cunningham (57 mins), Tom Fox for Mannion (63 mins), Conor Casey for D Mullin (63 mins).
GLEN: Connlan Bradley; Cathal Mulholland, Ryan Dougan, Connor Carville; Tiernán Flanagan, Michael Warnock, Eunan Mulholland; Conor Glass, Emmettt Bradley (0-2, one free); Ethan Doherty, Jack Doherty (0-1), Conor Convery; Alex Doherty (0-2, one mark), Danny Tallon (1-3, two frees), Conleth McGuckian (0-1). Subs: Stevie O’Hara for Convery (37 mins), Paul Gunning for Alex Doherty (59 mins).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).