Late goals seal it for Dublin in epic semi-final
McManamon and O’Gara net late on to finish off brave Kerry side
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan celebrates a score during the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Kerry at Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11: Dublin are through to their second All Ireland final in three years after a hands-down epic that showed off everything the sport has to offer.
They beat Kerry by 3-18 to 3-11 in the end but the scoreline hides the fact that Dublin actually trailed by a point with three minutes to go. Kerry, written off by many after their quarter-final but quietly-fancied by a growing constituency as the game approached, went out as heroes and very nearly pulled off a famous victory.
How this ended up a seven-point win is anyone’s guess. The action sizzled from the very beginning. Kerry had a goal on the board inside the opening seven minutes, the exceptional James O’Donoghue bursting onto a flicked pass from Donnchadh Walsh and burying low past Stephen Cluxton.
Walsh had been found in space with customary vision by Colm Cooper and Kerry’s next score was dreamed up in the head of the Kerry number 11 as well, his pinpoint pass finding O’Donoghue who put Kerry 1-2 to 0-3 ahead. And when Cooper sumptuously pulled another string a minute later, sending Walsh in for Kerry’s second goal, they were all of a sudden five points to the good.
But you couldn’t take your eyes of this game and within a minute Dublin had a goal of their own. Diarmuid Connolly’s shot for a point dropped in front of Brendan Kealy’s goal and Dublin corner forward Paul Mannion beat the Kerry goalkeeper to the punch. Kerry 2-2 Dublin 1-3 and only 13 minutes gone.
Any hope the gathered 81,553 had of catching their breath disappeared four minutes later as Kerry plundered another goal, this time an O’Donoghue penalty after Walsh was hauled down by Cluxton. But a couple of Dublin points through Philly McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan kept Jim Gavin’s side in touch.
Cooper was a class apart in that first half though and he put Kerry two ahead just minutes short of the break. When O’Donoghue and Ciarán Kilkenny swapped points soon after, it made the half-time score 3-5 to 1-9. The ball had barely been out of play for 35 minutes so it was safe to say everyone was glad of the break.
Kerry burst from the traps in the second half, knocking over three of the first four points – two from Paul Galvin and another from Cooper. But it was in the third quarter that Dublin had their best spell, penning Kerry back in their own half and scoring five points on the spin to go 1-15 to 3-8 ahead with 20 minutes left.
But Kerry found an answer from somewhere. O’Donoghue knifed a point to draw them level and Darran O’Sullivan put them ahead with seven minutes left on the clock. And it was only when Connolly was handed a tricky free out on the right-hand side three minutes from time that Dublin were able to find a chance to level it. But level it he did and for a brief second a replay looked on the cards.
But cometh the hour and all that. Off a Cluxton kick-out, Michael Darragh Macauley found a flick to put Kevin McManamon in 60 metres of space. He ran and he ran before side-footing a gorgeous finish high into the top corner.
Kerry were done. A late Connolly point and a goal from Eoghan O’Gara made a liar out of the scoreboard. Dublin into the final then, but they got a hell of a fright along the way.