Dublin equal unbeaten record in Kerry’s own backyard
Paul Mannion’s late point denies the Kingdom victory in physical Tralee encounter
Kerry’s Paul Geaney tackles Michael Darragh Macauley of Dublin during Saturday’s draw in Tralee. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kerry 0-13 Dublin 0-13
They won’t be hung, this Dublin team. Kerry had them on the gallows, they had the rope in place and the stool just ready to be kicked away. They were two points up in injury-time and they had possession. And still Dublin wouldn’t die.
A Dean Rock free and a Paul Mannion equaliser was enough to keep the champions’ unbeaten streak alive, equal now at 34 matches with the Kerry team of 80 years ago.
For all the plaudits we send their way, the ability of Jim Gavin’s side to find a way not to come out on the wrong side of games like this is among their greatest gifts. They never stopped going, even as it looked lost. Kerry will be raging that they coughed up such a prize opportunity to put a halt to their gallop but there is plenty for Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team to take from this all the same.
For long stretches, they were the better team here. They bumped and hassled Dublin all night. Jack Barry gave Brian Fenton no respect in the middle of the pitch and put Dublin’s young prince altogether off his stride. Had they been a little more careful in their ball use late on, they’d have taken a fortifying result from the night. As it is, they’ll have to make do with the performance.
You didn’t need to know a thing about history or streaks or any of that to know you were in a place where something mattered. A crowd was building from three hours before the game and by the time they were all counted up, the numbers stopped turning at 11,858. They’d have easily done double that had they been able to find room.
This was niggly and it was fidgety and it was compelling as all hell. Flash fires popped up here and there across the pitch, some of them picked up by the referee and his merry men, some of them not so much. Sean Hurson could have done with a few extra heads, never mind eyes in the back of them.
A game like that can only run to a staccato beat and yet it carried a tune nonetheless. Paul Geaney was dangerous any time he was able to insinuate his way into the action, Dublin’s best moments came from Shane Carthy and Eric Lowndes scything through the middle of the Kerry defence. Ciarán Kilkenny and Tadhg Morley played out a battle that would have sold seats at the Garden.
And so it seed and it sawed. Kerry took the first lead, Peter Crowley corkscrewing to leg over a point on nine minutes after David Moran put him in. Paul Murphy was roving up and down the middle of the pitch and for the second time in the match, he was free in front of goal. He’d screwed the first one wide and Crowley didn’t spot him this time but already you could see he was a variable Dublin hadn’t quite accounted for.
After Geaney floated over a gorgeous score from the left on 11 minutes - Philly McMahon did everything right but couldn’t stop him - the temperature rose a degree or two higher. Kerry were all over Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs and in the stop-start to-and-fros that filled in the time, the referee had to start dishing out yellow cards. Morley and Kilkenny, Cluxton and Geaney, Crowley and Mick Fitzsimons. It was all going on,.
Dublin ticked and tocked their way back though. Dean Rock landed a couple of frees from beyond the 45-metre line, Conor McHugh swung over one of this own after a poor kick-out from Brendan Kealy. Kealy made amends by coming forward and icing a 45 but a couple more Rock frees pushed Dublin ahead just short of the break.
Kerry had a gilt-edged chance to open up a gap before they went for their tea but Geaney drew a falling save out of Cluxton with the goal gaping. The long whistle went soon after and we met half-time all square.
Kerry came out with pistols drawn. Geaney chipped a free and then nailed a point after Cian O’Sullivan pulled off a brilliant block on Stephen O’Brien. From the kick-out, Kerry monstered Dublin out of possession and David Moran kicked them three clear. When young Kieran McCarthy got in on the act soon after, the score was 0-9 to 0-5 and we were about to see, if we didn’t already know, what Dublin were made of.
We knew. We knew, they knew, everyone knew. They threw on a clatter of subs - Flynn, McManamon, O’Gara, Mannion - one after the other like cannon fire. They upped the pressure and sliced the seconds Kerry had in possession. Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side started giving up frees and Rock took them like he takes them.
Dublin were playing into a fresh wind and Conor McHugh’s 53rd minute point to make it 0-9 to 0-8 was all the more impressive for that. Eoghan O’Gara spanked one over the bar when a goal might have been on, Rock drove another couple of frees. In the space of 13 minutes, the Dubs had turned a four-point deficit into a two-point lead.
Back came Kerry. Moran was excellent all night and he drove them forward. Geaney pointed two frees before putting Barry John Keane in for the go-ahead score. Then as the clock turned 70, Keane and Darran O’Sullivan combined to send Donnchadh Walsh through to make it 0-13 to 0-11.
But Dublin weren’t done. A goalmouth scramble on 71 minutes led to an easy free for Rock to bring it back to one. And although Kerry gained possession from the kick-out, they made a mess of a free on their own 45 and within 30 seconds, Mannion reeled them in.
Kerry: Brendan Kealy (0-1, 45); Shane Enright, Mark Griffin, Ronan Shanahan; Peter Crowley (0-1), Tadhg Morley, Killian Young; David Moran (0-1), Jack Barry; Adrian Spillane, Paul Murphy, Donnchadh Walsh (0-1); Kevin McCarthy (0-1), Paul Geaney (0-7, 0-4 frees), Jack Savage. Subs: Jonathan Lyne for Enright, 17 mins; Stephen O’Brien for Savage, half-time; Barry John Keane (0-1) for Walsh (temp) 50-52 mins; Keane for Spillane, 56 mins; Anthony Maher for Barry, 55 mins; Darran O’Sullivan for McCarthy, 61 mins; Michael Geaney for Young, 61 mins
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Philly McMahon, Mick Fitzsimons, David Byrne; Darren Daly, John Small, Eric Lowndes; Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh Macauley; Niall Scully, Dean Rock (0-9, 0-9 frees), Shane Carthy; Ciarán Kilkenny, Eoaghan O’Gara, Conor McHugh (0-2). Subs: Cian O’Sullivan for Byrne, half-time; Paul Flynn for Scully, 42 mins; Kevin McManamon for Macauley, 45 mins; Eoghan O’Gara (0-1) for Andrews, 47 mins; Paul Mannion (0-1) for Small, 50 mins; Bernard Brogan for McHugh, 69 mins
Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)