All-Ireland Final: Five-star Dublin beat Kerry to reach promised land

Drive for five comes to fruition as Dublin win replay to claim fifth All-Ireland in succession

Captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire trophy after Dublin secure a historic fifth title in a row after they defeated Kerry in the senior football final replay at Croke Park on Saturday. Photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times.

Dublin 1-18 Kerry 0-15

In the end, Dublin did it the way they’ve been doing it for years. They sized up Kerry, soaked up what they had to throw at them - which was loads - and then put them away in a second half of sustained excellence. A game that was bubbling all the way through the first period and well into the second, ultimately fizzled out because they took their scores when Kerry didn’t.

Five in a row. Never done before, maybe never again. Or maybe they’ll make it six next year.

Kerry will have plenty to say about that. This wasn’t a cakewalk, certainly not until the clock’s last ticks were tocking. The first half was up there with anything the game has offered in any era. That Peter Keane’s young side couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain all the way to the end is no slight on them. To co-opt a yerra, Dublin didn’t get their five-in-a-row out of a lucky bag.


For ages, this was a stunner of an encounter. When a game like this has its way with you, you barely have time to thank it or even ask its name. It was thrilling, but in a completely different way to the first day.

Dublin’s Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny celebrate with teammates after the final whistle. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

All the kamikaze high-pressing on kick-outs were gone - both keepers went in with 100 per cent records from the tee at half-time and we had to wait until the 39th minute before either side coughed one up. When it happened, Stephen Cluxton put a long one out over the sideline and Clifford took Paul Murphy's pass on a 60-metre run before popping a score. The margins were minuscule.

Kerry tried a few different things elsewhere as well. They started off raining high ball into the Dublin square, four in the first eight minutes. None of them got any purchase and few of them even looked likely, with Dublin able to simply crowd around Paul Geaney at full-forward and break the ball away. It seemed a frankly weird strategy, especially given that they knew Dublin would play with a sweeper this time around. What sort of cute-hoor long game were they playing?

Dublin’s James McCarthy and Brian Fenton with David Moran of Kerry. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

On the flipside, Dublin did what Dublin do on the opening spell. They came out and played Leinster championship football, blitzing the Kerry defence, making them back-pedal and flail and step off until space opened up for Con O'Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny. They were 0-5 to 0-1 up after eight minutes and it looked like dreadfully easy pickings.

Kerry didn’t get here by accident, though. Bit by bit, they brought some coherence and savvy to their game. David Clifford engineered a score from nothing, Geaney got in for a goal chance that he blazed over. When Adrian Spillane skipped onto a Seán O’Shea pass on 17 minutes, they were well in touch at 0-7 to 0-4. When Clifford reeled off the next two in the space of a couple of minutes, there was only a point in it.

Man oh man, we had a game now. Both sets of forwards had their opposition in a spin. Kilkenny, who didn’t have a single shot the first day, magicked up his own score here out of nothing. Geaney, who was sizzling all of a sudden, bowled onto the end of a Jack Barry run to split the posts from the top of the D.

Not to be outdone, O’Callaghan skinned Tom O’Sullivan at the other end to make it 0-9 to 0-7 with 25 minutes gone. By now there had been 16 scores and 15 of them had come from play. The quality was off the scale.

Kerry pressed on. O’Shea potted a couple of frees and Geaney thundered onto a breakway to knock over his third of the day. Dean Rock offered one for the Dubs and when Conor Lane blew the long whistle for the break, the sides were level at 0-10 apiece.

Dublin’s David Byrne tackles Paul Geaney of Kerry. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

And breathe. Hang on. Don't breathe. Because here's Eoin Murchan, straight from the kick-out, sizzling down the centre of the pitch with David Moran looking like a Grand National winner chasing a Derby favourite. Moran did his best, Murchan did what was needed. Bang, corner of the net, Dublin 1-10 Kerry 0-10.

We didn’t know it at the time but as soon as the green flag went up, history was clearing its throat. Kerry were in the game for most of the rest of the way, except when they were kicking themselves out of it. They matched Dublin almost every step of the way in general play, they just started to lose their radar when it mattered most.

Diarmuid O’Connor pulled one to the left, Tom O’Sullivan chanced one that faded at the wrong time, Moran saw that things couldn’t go on like this and had a go himself but didn’t catch it right. On another day, Kerry would get away with those - O’Shea, Clifford and Geaney were keeping their end up and the scoreboard was moving. Problem was, those wides meant it wasn’t moving fast enough.

The key miss came on 54 minutes, with Dublin 1-13 to 0-13 ahead. Stephen O’Brien, tireless all night, zipped past the Dublin cover and got in close enough to see the whites of Stephen Cluxton’s eyes. In truth, it was too close. O’Brien spurned the loose man inside and carried the ball too far and Cluxton batted his shot away.

In the next breath, Paul Mannion kicked his fourth of the day and now the game was ebbing away from Kerry. By just about every measure, there was nothing between the sides. By the only measure that matters, Dublin were doing what Kerry weren't. Niall Scully planted one into the Davin Stand end, Jack Barry missed almost immediately.

The gap got wider. Four points, five, six. Kerry were in tatters now - at one stage, Diarmuid Connolly and O'Callaghan contrived to butcher a three on two. Rock iced the resultant 45, pushing them six ahead. They were away and gone, to a place no one has ever been.

Dublin: 1.S Cluxton (capt.); 24. E Murchan (1-0), 3. M Fitzsimons, 2. D Byrne (0-1); 7. J Small, 4. J Cooper, 5. J McCaffrey; 8. B Fenton, 6. J McCarthy (0-1); 10. N Scully (0-1), 11. C Kilkenny (0-4), 12. B Howard; 13. P Mannion (0-4), 14. C O'Callaghan (0-4), 15. D Rock (0-3, one 45). Subs: 19. D Connolly for McCaffrey (half-time), 22. P McMahon for Murchan (55 mins), 20. C Costello for Scully (58 mins), 23. K McManamon (68 mins), 25. C O'Sullivan for Byrne (68 mins), 9. MD Macauley for Howard (74 mins).

Kerry: 1. S Ryan; 2. J Foley, 3. T Morley, 4. T O'Sullivan; 7. B Ó Beaglaoich, 5. P Murphy, 6. G Crowley; 8. D Moran, 9. J Barry; 23. D O'Connor, 11. S O'Shea (0-5, two frees), 15. A Spillane (0-1); 14. P Geaney (0-4), 13. D Clifford (0-5, two frees), 12. S O'Brien. Subs: 19. J Sherwood for Ó Beaglaoich (52 mins), 10. G White for A Spillane (52 mins), 21. T Walsh for O'Connor (56 mins), 18. K Spillane for Murphy (60 mins), 26. J O'Donoghue for Barry (65 mins), 20 D Moynihan for Crowley (72 mins).

Referee: C Lane (Cork)

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times