The sporting decade that was: Dublin kick into a different decade

Cluxton’s match winning-point lays foundation for a decade of Dublin domination

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton fires the wnning free into the Hill 16 end with the final decisive act of the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry. Photograph: Brian Lawless/Sportsfile

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton fires the wnning free into the Hill 16 end with the final decisive act of the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry. Photograph: Brian Lawless/Sportsfile

 

September 18th, 2011: Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

 

In more sombre moments I could concede that my life may have been measured out with coffee spoons, but by the age of 51 it had equally been milestoned by Dublin All-Ireland finals.

I left school the year Kerry clattered them in 1978, graduated five years later when Galway were beaten by 12 men and my son was born in 1995 a few weeks after the last Sam Maguire for a while was clawed out of Tyrone.

As my interest had to incline to dispassionate, the thrill of it all became vicarious.

On September 18th 2011, my eldest turned 18 and together with her younger sister made their way down a wet, misty Clonliffe Road. The mood amongst Dubs was chirpy - 16 years is a long time to wait to attend an All-Ireland final - but realistic.

No championship win over Kerry in 35 years and just one All-Ireland final win against them in 88 long seasons - and not because they never played; there’d been eight finals in that time.

In the contemporary frame, it was just two years since Kerry had handed Dublin a 17-point humiliation in their previous meeting, after which manager Pat Gilroy described his team as ‘startled earwigs,’ which suggested he was a bit shell-shocked himself.

No. This final would be all about respect and showing that the county belonged back in the big time. By this stage even seasoned Dubliners were beginning to question how great a ‘rivalry’ this actually was, given the numbers, but the quibbling was overlaid by the ‘yerras’ of anticipation from Kerry, as they spied a familiar mark on the horizon.

The job was largely done by half-time when despite a goal from Colm Cooper, Dublin led by a point. In other words, no matter what, this would be respectable even though Cooper’s 64th-minute point to push Kerry’s lead to four looked to have closed the book.

Joe Brolly said that Croke Park shook after Kevin McManamon’s goal and that was followed by quality points from Kevin Nolan, more predictably, Bernard Brogan and then Kieran Donaghy. All square at 1-11 each.

As soon as referee Joe McQuillan awards the fateful free, Bernard Brogan is calling Stephen Cluxton up from goal and tossing blades of grass in the air to test the wind like he’s a caddie.

On the lower deck of the Cusack, my youngest stands on her seat and gives a commentary to her sister, who is crouched down and overwhelmed with nerves, unable to watch.

Look up. This decade is going to be different.

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