David Clifford’s late penalty ensures Kerry and Dublin share spoils

Unusual setting of Thurles on a cold May afternoon was the stage for the old rivals

Kerry’s David Clifford scores a late penalty in their Allianz Football League draw with Dublin. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kerry’s David Clifford scores a late penalty in their Allianz Football League draw with Dublin. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Dublin 4-9 Kerry 1-18

The great reckoning came and went in Thurles and ended all square. Once again football’s oldest rivals played out a draw and when the whistle sounded, there’s no doubt that Kerry were happier with the outcome but Dublin weren’t exactly distraught having blown a seven-point lead.

The champions have established a steady habit of close matches in this fixture - this was the third time in the last four meetings, league and championship, that the teams have tied - and this one won’t have shaken their confidence that they can win when the stakes are highest.

Peter Keane, Kerry’s manager, said afterwards that he was team building and happy to salvage a draw courtesy of a last-minute penalty by David Clifford. He too knows that 2021 won’t be defined by a drawn league encounter on a freezing afternoon in late May.

The temperature and the venue in the home of hurling gave the afternoon curiosity value but the actual play was, as is often the case when this pair meet, interesting in the process and exciting in the conclusion.

Goals kept Dublin afloat and one aspect of the afternoon that will bother Kerry is the hospitality with which they treat opposing forwards. Even by those standards, the concession of 4-7 to your opponents’ full-forward line, accepting the calibre of the personnel, is unduly generous and will require stringent review.

Yet, the willingness to go toe-to-toe with the best team around and without turning their team into a gated community was a telling vote of confidence in an attack that delivered in the end - especially in the third quarter when they raided for five successive points to get the deficit down to two.

Fresh from his hat-trick exploits a week previously, David Clifford was well marshaled by Michael Fitzsimons and left the sense that there was more in him - until you glance at the numbers and see that he shot five points from play to go with 1-1 from a penalty and free.

It has become a fact of life for defenders that such stats are becoming regarded as good value for an afternoon in his company.

Early pressure was Kerry’s and they would have been disappointed to have just a point up after nearly 10 minutes of pressure - Seán O’Shea’s early score set up by Paul Geaney had been cancelled by Ciarán Kilkenny’s equaliser - but they began to assert themselves. Diarmuid O’Connor, who had a good match winning some grubby ball in the finale, scored one after an interchange with O’Shea and Dara Moynihan was sharp in finishing a chance after Seán McMahon had doggedly kept out Killian Spillane. Clifford put them three ahead, 0-4 to 0-1.

Just as it looked like they were turning the screw and mastering a difficult wind, Dublin struck for the first goal after a bout of keep-ball when Kilkenny hand passed into the path of Con O’Callaghan, who had darted into space and wrapped up the formalities by picking his spot.

After last weekend O’Callaghan was freewheeling a bit in the shadow of Clifford’s marksmanship but on Sunday, he scored two goals, got fouled for a penalty and came close with two others - desperately trying to get a fist to Niall Scully’s slightly overcooked handpass and hitting the post and then taking a big mark in front of goal, playing on and drawing an alert block and smother from Kieran Fitzgibbon, again in goal for the injured Shane Ryan.

Kerry responded to go two ahead before conceding a second goal. Paddy Small’s fisted pass fell for Cormac Costello, who drove the ball to the net and now they led 2-1 to 0-6.

Moynihan in the 33rd minute was whistled back after advantage appeared to play out without his getting a shot away only for him to put the ball in the net. O’Shea made do with the free.

Con O’Callaghan and Ciarán Kilkenny compete in the air with Brian O Beaglaoich and Jason Foley. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Con O’Callaghan and Ciarán Kilkenny compete in the air with Brian O Beaglaoich and Jason Foley. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Further calamity befell them just before the break. Scully lobbed what in rugby terms might be a Garryowen and Paul Murphy, switched in to try his hand after Tadhg Morley had been moved off O’Callaghan, misjudged the ball and it fell in behind him with inevitable consequences.

O’Callaghan’s second goal sent Dublin in six ahead, 3-6 to 0-9 and must have demoralised Kerry, who had rallied after the Costello goal.

They fell farther behind on the restart when Costello pointed but Keane’s view that they had raised the tempo after half-time chimed with acting Dublin manager Mick Galvin’s take that they had become sloppy.

Tommy Walsh was introduced but they didn’t rain much ball in on him so Kerry’s improvement wasn’t tactically driven in that sense.

Dublin’s careful protection of possession which had built the platform for several first-half scores and also retained the ball for nearly three minutes after the throw-in for the second half began to break down.

On a number of occasions, they were hustled into turnovers by Kerry and the counter-attacks proved productive. Geaney kicked a point (and was replaced immediately), Moynihan availed of turnover ball as did Clifford when Evan Comerford - sufficiently vocal in the Dublin goal that he could be snapped up for commentator duties - put a restart out over the sideline.

Costello punctuated the flow of scores but Kerry got another three to draw level - Murphy finding greater comfort in attack where he helped himself to two points.

No sooner were the teams level than Dublin struck again. The growing aimlessness and diminishing productivity of the attacks gave way to a long ball kicked in by replacement Dara Mullin. O’Callaghan caught it and was fouled by O’Connor.

Costello addressed his fourth penalty in eight days and after the mixed returns of last week, saw no reason not to hammer the ball into the net.

In the 74th minute Tommy Walsh got a touch on the ball to send in Stephen O’Brien and replacement Philly McMahon high tackled him. Penalty. A late Kerry goal had felt like an inevitability and duly became one when Clifford walked up to tuck away the kick.

DUBLIN: 1. E Comerford; 22. S McMahon, 20. M Fitzsimons, 3. D Byrne; 2. E Murchan, 6. J Small, 7. R McDaid; 8 B Fenton (0-1), 9. T Lahiffe; 10. N Scully, 11. C Kilkenny (0-1), 5. J McCarthy; 13. P Small (0-3), 14. C O’Callaghan (2-1), 15. C Costello (2-3).

Subs: 17. C Basquel for Lahiffe (46 mins), 12. D Mullin for J Small (55 mins), 21. E Lowndes for McDaid (55 mins), 24. P McMahon for J Small (59 mins), 4. J Cooper for McMahon (65 mins), 18. S Bugler for Kilkenny (65 mins), 23. B Howard for Scully (71 mins).

KERRY: 1.K Fitzgibbon; 2. B Ó Beaglaoich, 3. T Morley, 4. J Foley; 5. P Murphy (0-2), 6. G Crowley, 7. G White; 8. D Moran, 18. D O’Connor (0-2); 10. D Moynihan (0-2), 11. S O’Shea (0-4, two frees), 12. P Geaney (0-1); 14. K Spillane, 13. D Clifford (1-6, goal a penalty and one free), 15, P Clifford (0-1).

Subs: 21. T Walsh for Spillane (half-time), 23. R Buckley for Geaney (45 mins), 9. A Spillane for Moran (45 mins), 26. S O’Brien for P Clifford (51 mins), 17. G O’Sullivan for Ó Beaglaoich (57 mins), 20. J Sherwood for White (57 mins), 25. M Burns for Moynihan (62 mins).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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