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Dublin: 22 °C Sunday 24 June, 2018

'Diarmuid Connolly gave me a hand-pass and I'd say he was expecting the one-two'

Kevin Nolan tells us about his famous equalising point for Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland final.


CAST YOUR MIND back to Dublin’s breakthrough All-Ireland win in 2011.

What scores do you remember from that seminal day? Chances are Kevin McManamon’s 64th minute goal and Stephen Cluxton’s game-winning free two minutes into stoppage-time are the ones that stick out in your mind.

But sandwiched in between those was Kevin Nolan’s booming equalising point from distance, which arrived while the ground was still shaking from McManamon’s three-pointer.

Following the ‘startled earwigs’ pulping Dublin took from Kerry three years earlier, Pat Gilroy had re-calibrated his team to give them more defensive security.

Bryan Cullen and Barry Cahill were deployed as deep-lying half-forwards, while wing-backs Nolan and James McCarthy were under instruction to focus on their defensive responsibilities.

Kevin Nolan emotional after the game

Nonetheless the Kilmacud Crokes defender drifted into an advanced position against Kerry to kick the clutch score that helped propel Dublin to the title.

“I’d say I switched off for a few minutes there and Diarmuid Connolly gave me the ball, it was just instinct,” Nolan tells The42. “I wouldn’t have been one for going up and down the field under the game plan Pat had in place.

“We were defenders and had to get the ball to the likes of Bernard (Brogan) and get him taking the scores. I just found myself with space in front of me and went up the field. Diarmuid gave me a hand-pass and I’d say he was expecting the one-two.

“I just stepped inside and I used to play as a forward when I was younger. That’s all it was. All I saw was the goal posts and I just tried to get it between them. That was it.”

It was Nolan’s first ever championship point and he was awarded man-of-the-match for his performance after the game.

“There’s a photo I look back on now just after the score and Diarmuid is there in the background giving a fist pump. We knew that we had turned them. We were four points down three minutes before that. We got a goal, we got a point and we were back to level. After that we would have had belief all the way through.”

2017 Volkswagen All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens Launch Nolan was speaking at the launch of this year’s Volkswagen All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens which takes place on the 16th of September at Kilmacud Crokes Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

It might seem like a different universe, but heading into that game there were still question marks hanging over Dublin’s capacity to get over the line and perform on the big day.

Six years later and the Gaelic football landscape is a very different one, as Dublin cast a long shadow over the rest of the country.

Nolan continues: “It could nearly be taken for granted now as a Dublin fan looking at it thinking, ‘If Dublin are winning it’s a failure.’ Whereby back in 2010 we got to an All-Ireland semi-final and lost to Cork by a point I think, and we were building on steadily for the following year.

“In the (2011) semi-final against Donegal the word would have been ‘patience’ and against Kerry it would have been ‘believe.’ The way Kerry were setting themselves up as a footballing team we thought that if we could add a bit of attacking play to our defensive systems that we could really challenge them and put it them.

Kevin Nolan lifts the Sam Maguire with fans Source: James Crombie

“The main thing I remember after the game is looking into the crowd and seeing my family, my girlfriend and her family. They’re the people that helped me along the way.

“Getting to that moment of fully achieving what we set out to do at the start of the year and getting that All-Ireland medal was the main thing I remember from the day. All the other bits apart from that were just add-ons that made the experience a bit better.

“If I didn’t achieve all the personal goals, just to have that Celtic Cross was the main thing.”

Source: MarcasOCallanain/YouTube

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Kevin O'Brien

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