Fintan O’Toole reports from Croke Park
THE CHAMPIONS ARE still standing in 2016 but only after a huge semi-final test in Croke Park this afternoon.
Late points deep in injury-time from Eoghan O’Gara off his right foot and Diarmuid Connolly off his left foot into the Hill 16 end ensured the Dublin fans were celebrating joyously at the final whistle.
Kerry fell short against Dublin again but in this epic contest, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side threw everything at Jim Gavin’s men.
They enjoyed a brilliant and fruitful spell on the scoreboard before the break to hit 2-4 without reply and enjoy a 2-8 to 0-9 interval advantage over Dublin.
The goals came from Darran O’Sullivan and Paul Geaney – both strikes that Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton will not reflect fondly on.
When Paul Murphy pointed in the 61st minute, Kerry were still in the ascendancy as they were ahead 2-13 to 0-16. But Dublin finished strongly with Kevin McManamon outstanding and Dean Rock, who hit 0-12 overall, proving crucial with his accuracy in front of goal.
It was an absorbing encounter. We had waited all summer for Dublin to receive a stern examination and to see if Kerry had learned from the errors of last September’s All-Ireland decider and last April’s league final.
In the early stages it appeared as if Dublin were on course to dominate again and Kerry were set for another afternoon of struggle. Dublin sprinted into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead inside 12 minutes and were 0-7 to 0-3 clear by the 20th minute.
Kerry didn’t raise a white flag until the 14th minute through David Moran and Dublin’s grip on the game was firm when Diarmuid Connolly pushed them five clear in the 24th minute – 0-9 to 0-4.
But then the game swerved on a different route and exploded into life. Geaney – a constant scoring threat – picked off a neat point for Kerry and then Colm Cooper clipped a free.
Kerry were steadying themselves and then got a massive injection of confidence in the 31st minute. Stephen Cluxton’s wayward kickout went straight to Geaney, who transferred to Donnchadh Walsh and he placed O’Sullivan for a close-range finish.
The Kingdom support were in full voice and then Cooper nudged them in front before Anthony Maher’s speculative high ball was contested by Geaney and Cluxton in first-half injury-time.
Geaney got the vital touch and despite Cluxton scooping the ball away, the umpire judged the ball had crossed the line. 2-8 to 0-9 at the break was a healthy position for Kerry.
Dublin began the second-half in a controlled fashion though. They shot six points courtesy of Rock (4), Bernard Brogan and Brian Fenton – with a Cooper free proving Kerry’s solitary reply – to ensure the teams were deadlocked by the 49th minute.
But Kerry weathered that storm. The sprung fresh legs from the bench and were rewarded with some beautiful points from the likes of Barry John Keane and James O’Donoghue.
Rathmore club man Murphy arrowed over another stylish score with nine minutes remaining to stretch their advantage to three.
However Dublin’s resilience and staying power proved pivotal in the finale. Rock was deadly in front of the posts and a superb score by Kevin McManamon saw them ahead in the 70th minute.
Kerry rallied through a Stephen O’Brien point but Dublin posted the telling scores from O’Gara and Connolly. There was a moment of controversy with McManamon huge hit as Peter Crowley attacked in between those late points but the referee ruled in favour of Dublin and waved play on.
Jim Gavin’s men seized their chance and a final against Mayo beckons on 18 September.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-12 (0-8f, 0-2 ’45), Diarmuid Connolly 0-3, Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan 0-2 each, Philly McMahon, Brian Fenton, Eoghan O’Gara 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: Paul Geaney 1-4, Colm Cooper 0-5 (0-4f), Darran O’Sullivan 1-0, Barry John Keane, David Moran, Stephen O’Brien, James O’Donoghue, Paul Murphy
1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells – captain)
4. David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
2. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)
3. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)
7. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
23. Michael Darragh MacAuley (Ballyboden St Enda’s)
10. Paul Flynn (Fingallians)
14. Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s)
12. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)
24. Kevin McManamon (St Jude’s)
13. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)
15. Bernard Brogan (St. Oliver Plunkett’s-Eoghan Ruadh)
17. Paddy Andrews (St Brigid’s) for Flynn (45)
11. Paul Mannion (Kilmacud Crokes) for Small (50)
26. Eoghan O’Gara (Templeogue Synge-Street) for MacAuley (59)
21. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala) for Cooper (66)
19. Cormac Costello (Whitehall Colmcille) for Brogan (70)
1. Brian Kelly (Killarney Legion)
2. Shane Enright (Tarbert)
3. Mark Griffin (St Michaels/Foilmore)
4. Killian Young (C) (Renard)
10. Paul Murphy (Rathmore)
6. Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers)
7. Tadhg Morley (Templenoe)
23. Anthony Maher (Duagh)
9. David Moran (Kerins O’Rahillys)
17. Darran O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar)
12. Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane)
24. Aidan O’Mahony (Rathmore)
11. Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes)
8. Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks)
14. Paul Geaney (Dingle)
13. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare) for Darran O’Sullivan (inj) (39)
15. James O’Donoghue (Killarney Legion) for Donaghy (inj) (50)
19. Barry John Keane (Kerins O’Rahilly’s) for Walsh (51)
5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht) for Morley (56)
18. Bryan Sheehan (St Mary’s) for Maher (58)
20. Marc Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht) for Geaney (66)
Referee: David Gough (Meath)
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