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Clifford converts nerveless late free to hand Kerry draw in bad-tempered clash with Dublin

Kingdom captain David Clifford bagged a wonder goal in the first-half.

Kerry's David Clifford scuffles off the ball with John Small and Brian Howard of Dublin.
Kerry's David Clifford scuffles off the ball with John Small and Brian Howard of Dublin.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dublin 1-19

Kerry 1-19

ANY QUESTION MARKS over David Clifford’s ability to handle the pressure of being Kerry captain can be put to bed after he nailed an 80th minute free to seal a draw against Dublin in a breathless clash.

The All-Ireland champions looked to have sealed a come-from-behind win after a probing move saw Ciaran Kilkenny fouled and Rock edge them a point ahead in the 76th minute.

Dublin had outscored Kerry by 0-6 to 0-2 in the previous 10 minutes and looked on the verge of another narrow win. In the final play, substitute Micheal Burns was fouled just inside the 45m line and Niall Scully kicked away the ball. 

The refereed moved it forward 10 metres and with Kerry’s free-taker Sean O’Shea sent-off moments earlier, it was left to Clifford to swing over the equalising score.

It may not count for much when it comes to the business end of the championship in August, but as a standalone game it had everything.

There were 14 cards handed out in the game which had plenty of niggle in it throughout.  A heavy early collision after the throw-up between Niall Scully and Sean O’Shea set the tone for this physical encounter.

Both men were forced to depart the action to receive treatment. O’Shea returned with a bandage wrapped around his head, but it didn’t affect his performance.  

In the fifth minute, James McCarthy lined up Gavin O’Brien and came off the worse, leaving the field with a blood injury.

By the end of the heated affair, Eric Lowndes and O’Shea had been sent-off, the latter was on a yellow when he was black-carded for a check on Dean Rock late in the day.

And a heated melee between the teams took place after the final whistle which left Clifford’s jersey in tatters.

A similar brawl took place during their league meeting in Tralee last February.

david-clifford-after-the-game Clifford leaves the field after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There’s no love lost between Dublin and Kerry and it’s little surprise. They’re familiar foes at this stage, with last September’s drawn All-Ireland and replay still fresh in the memory banks for both sets of players.

42,502 arrived in Croke Park for a game that felt decidedly more important than a routine league run-out in January. Kerry arrived in town looking to land an early blow, while Dublin were keen to remind the young pups of their superiority.

Dessie Farrell’s first Dublin team had a familiar look to it. The inclusion of veterans Kevin McManamon and Paddy Andrews indicated this was a game for the tried and trusted.

His bench – with the exception of Rory O’Carroll – had a far more youthful disposition.

Evan Comerford – deputising for the injured Footballer of the Year Stephen Cluxton – Eric Lowndes and Conor McHugh, a late replacement for Paul Mannion, were the only non-regulars in the starting XV. 

Farrell’s clubmate McHugh opened his account in the 10th minute and scored from the first advanced mark of the game after James McCarthy’s delivery inside.

Kerry named Tommy Walsh at midfield but he lined out in a full-forward line alongside James O’Donoghue. 

While Walsh was well-marshalled by Philly McMahon, O’Donoghue’s return to form was a major plus for the Kingdom. He looked dangerous and clipped over three scores in the opening period before his second-half withdrawal.

david-clifford-scores-his-sides-opening-goal Clifford scores his side's goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Paul Geaney was at centre-forward with Sean O’Shea in midfield. Captain David Clifford played slightly more withdrawn in between the lines, netting a wonder goal in the 19th minute. He turned Davy Byrne inside out before finishing low and hard past Comerford. 

Rock netted a penalty after he was fouled by Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Brian Fenton stroked over four points of the highest quality to leave the Sky Blues 1-10 to 1-9 ahead at the interval. 

Kerry outscored their opponents by 0-5 to 0-2 in a lively third quarter where Dublin were reduced to 14 men. Lowndes, black carded in first-half stoppage-time, was booked for a high challenge on O’Brien as he raced by and was sent-off. 

The game descended into a battle between the free-takers, Rock and O’Shea two of the elite dead-ball shooters in the country.

Another former AFL convert, Ciaran Kilkenny, fetched Dublin’s fourth advanced mark of the game under the nose of Tadhg Morley and sent it between the posts. From the next play, Geaney claimed a mark near the 21 and went down injured. As per the rule, the nearest man next to him Killian Spillane took the kick and raised the white flag. 

shane-enright-and-stephen-obrien-appeal-to-referee-sean-hurson Shane Enright after conceding a late free. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dublin sensed blood and pressed for home. Aaron Byrne and Kilkenny added a score apiece. Then Sean Bugler almost sent Kilkenny in for goal but overhit the handpass. The Castleknock ace recycled it out to Niall Scully for a score to leave the Sky Blues one in front.

Substitute Rory O’Carroll hauled down Clifford and Geaney applied the finish. All square again. 

Rock looked to have won it for the Dubs at the death until Clifford’s late intervention. 

Scorers for Kerry: David Clifford 1-3, Sean O’Shea (0-5f) 0-5, James O’Donoghue 0-3, Paul Murphy 0-2, Killian Spillane (0-1 advanced mark), Gavin Crowley, Gavin O’Brien, Stephen O’Brien, Paul Geaney (0-1f) and Liam Kearney 0-1 each.

Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-6f), Brian Fenton 0-4, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-3 (0-1 advanced mark), Conor McHugh 0-2 (0-1 advanced mark), James McCarthy, Niall Scully, Kevin McManamon, Aaron Byrne 0-1.

Dublin

1. Evan Comerford (Ballymun Kickhams)

7. Eoin Murchan (Na Fianna)
3. Davy Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
4. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)

5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
2. Eric Lowndes (St Peregrines)

8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. Brian Howard (Raheny)

10. Niall Scully (Templeogue Synge Street)
12. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)
13. Kevin McManamon (St Judes)

20. Conor McHugh (Na Fianna)
14. Paddy Andrews (St Brigid’s)
15. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)

Subs 

17. Sean Bugler (St Olver Plunketts ER) for Scully (blood sub, 1-7)
17. Bugler for McCarthy (blood sub, 9 – 18)
17. Bugler for Scully (blood sub, 28 – 33)
11. Paul Mannion (Kilmacud Crokes) for Andrews (43)
17. Bugler for McManamon (52)
18. Aaron Byrne (Na Fianna) for McHugh (55)
24. Rory O’Carroll (Kilmacud Crokes) for McMahon (64)
22. Dan O’Brien (Kilmacud Crokes) for Bugler (77)

Kerry

1. Shane Ryan (Rathmore)

7. Brian O Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)
3. Tadhg Morley (Templenoe)
2. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue)

5. Paul Murphy (Rathmore)
4. Shane Enright (Tarbert)
6. Gavin Crowley (Templenoe)

11. Seán O’Shea (Kenmare Shamrocks)
9. Adrian Spillane (Templenoe)

10. Gavin O’Brien (Kerins O’Rahillys)
15. Paul Geaney (Dingle)
12. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks)

13. James O’Donoghue (Killarney Legion)
14. David Clifford (Fossa)
8. Tommy Walsh (Kerins O’Rahillys)

Subs 

18. Killian Spillane (Templenoe) for O’Shea (blood sub, 1-6)
21. Liam Kearney (Spa) for Adrian Spillane (16)
17. Graham O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) for Ó Beagloich (32)
18. Spillane for O’Donoghue (51) 
19. Micheal Burns (Dr Crokes) for Walsh (57)
23. Dara Moynihan (Spa) for O’Brien (70)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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