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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 13 May 2021

A league of their own! Dublin punish 14-man Kerry to claim four-in-a-row

Dublin collect ninth title of the Jim Gavin era as they warm up for All-Ireland defence in style.

[image alt="Eric Lowndes scores the second goal" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

Dublin 2-18

Kerry 0-13

– Niall Kelly reports from Croke Park

THERE IS NO right answer to the question of what would happen if an immovable object met an unstoppable force.

It’s even more redundant when applied to Gaelic football because for now, Dublin represent both sides of the equation.

On a historic day marking the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the Dubs added a footnote of their own. For the fourth year in a row, they are the National Football League champions, an incredible ninth piece of silverware in 10 attempts since Jim Gavin took charge.

In front of a sold-out crowd in Croke Park, they stretched their unbeaten run to an equally remarkable 22 games — and just as importantly considering the opposition, continued their recent dominance over their old rivals.

This wasn’t Kerry’s championship best by any stretch of the imagination but worryingly enough considering the 11 points between the sides at the finish, you suspect that it wasn’t Dublin’s either.

Nor was it shadow boxing ahead of the serious business of the summer. Both sides came for a fight, but when Dublin produced the knives, Kerry could only find a couple of spoons by way of response.

[image alt="Bernard Brogan and Marc O'Se" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

They had threatened so much more until the 50th minute when Aidan O’Mahony was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident involving Jonny Cooper, an incident which skewed the final quarter and the final result.

Dublin led by just two points at that stage, 0-13 to 0-11, and looked set to face the biggest test of their credentials since these sides met in the All-Ireland final last September. With Kerry down to 14, they were overrun and outscored by 2-5 to 0-2 as Dublin pressed on the wound for maximum effect, Paul Flynn and substitute Eric Lowndes scoring late goals in front of a jubilant Hill.

There will be further consequences for O’Mahony too, with the All-Star defender now set to miss Kerry’s Munster championship opener against Clare or Limerick on 12 June.

The final reckoning could have been even worse for Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side had Dean Rock kept his penalty under Brendan Kealy’s crossbar rather than firing over on the hour mark.

The let-off seemed to present Kerry with a glimmer of hope at the time; in the end, it didn’t really matter.

[image alt="Dean Rock scores a point from the penalty spot" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

The one-sided finale was no reflection of an evenly-matched first half. In football terms, it wasn’t the instant classic which many had hoped for but it was still far more entertaining than the last time these sides met at HQ.

They might be seen as football’s aristocrats, but both teams showed that they’re not adverse to a bit of grit either. Philly McMahon lined up on Colm Cooper for the second act of their battle while Jonny Cooper tasked himself with shackling Darran O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan finished with a pair of points, and Cooper with one, but in truth both were starved of the quality ball that they needed to get the edge on their markers and punish Dublin.

Kieran Donaghy was named in midfield, a part he has regularly played this spring, but when he was moved inside to lead the aerial assault on Stephen Cluxton’s goal, it was Cian O’Sullivan who shadowed his every step and ensured that he was feeding off scraps.

Donaghy might well feel that O’Sullivan’s interventions were more foul than fair, but referee Eddie Kinsella was happy to leave them at it for the most part.

At the other end, man of the match Ciaran Kilkenny thrived in the space he was allowed while Bernard Brogan was a step ahead of Marc Ó Sé at every turn. He popped over three points in the space of five minutes in a Dublin purple patch towards the end of that first half, though Bryan Sheehan’s free made sure that Kerry only went in two points down, 0-10 to 0-8.

Within 11 seconds of the restart, Diarmuid Connolly had stretched that lead to three before Dean Rock added another free.

[image alt="Aidan O'Mahony is sent off by Eddie Kinsella" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

[image alt="Jonny Cooper recieves attention" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

Neither side could really wrestle control of the game in the third quarter as loose passes and poor touches saw of a succession of promising forays break down on both sides.

But among the string of easy turnovers, Kerry managed to reel off three unanswered points through Peter Crowley, Donaghy and O’Sullivan while Dublin were held to just one Rock free over the course of 20 minutes.

And then the moment that changed the game. Few saw it — even the TV cameras seemed to miss it — but when the red mist cleared, Cooper was on the flat of his back receiving medical attention and O’Mahony was marching towards the sidelines.

A man down, Kerry still managed to cut the advantage through a Paul Murphy point and could have drawn level when Cooper picked out Donaghy with one of his trademark precision passes. Off balance, his shot arced high into the sky and dropped short into Cluxton’s hands.

Substitute Kevin McManamon made an instant impact for Dublin, scoring with his first meaningful chance after replacing Connolly, and when Rock’s shot struck the post, Paul Mannion was pulled down by Shane Enright as the two raced to gather the loose ball.

Had Rock held his nerve, it would have put five between the sides with 10 minutes to play and surely signalled the end for Kerry, but he fired the ball over the bar.

[image alt="Brian Fenton celebrates with the trophy after the game" src="" width="100%" height="" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

It gave Sheehan the chance to keep Kerry’s unlikely challenge alive, and his third free of the afternoon cut the gap to two again, but the blue wave was swelling as Dublin mercilessly piled on 2-3 without reply in those final minutes.

Fitzmaurice will rue the fact that his side made it easy for the Dubs, Flynn’s goal coming directly from a botched kick-out by Kealy while Brogan set up Lowndes after winning a 50/50 tussle with Ó Sé far too easily.

Plenty to work on if, as expected, this was just the appetiser ahead of a summer showdown.

Scorers for Dublin: D Rock (0-3f, 0-1 pen) 0-5, B Brogan 0-4, P Flynn, E Lowndes 1-0 each, C Kilkenny, K McManamon 0-2 each, J Cooper, B Fenton, P Mannion, D Connolly, C Costello 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan (0-3f) 0-3, S O’Brien, P Crowley, D O’Sullivan 0-2 each, C Cooper, D Walsh, K Donaghy, P Murphy 0-1 each.

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1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells)

2. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)
3. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
4. David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)

5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)
7. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)

8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. Denis Bastick (Templeogue Synge Street)

10. Paul Flynn (Fingalians)
26. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)
12. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)

13. Paul Mannion (Kilmacud Crokes)
14. Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s)
15. Bernard Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh)


23. Michael Darragh Macauley (Ballyboden St Enda’s) for Bastick (48)
24. Kevin McManamon (St Jude’s) for Connolly (54)
19. Cormac Costello (Whitehall Colmcilles) for Rock (60)
21. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala) for McMahon (63)
22. Eric Lowndes (St Peregrine’s) for Mannion (68)
20. Darren Daly (Fingal Ravens) for Small (69)


1. Brendan Kealy (Kilcummin)

2. Marc Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht)
3. Mark Griffin (St Michaels/Foilmore)
4. Shane Enright (Tarbert)

5. Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers)
6. Aidan O’Mahony (Rathmore)
7. Fionn Fitzgerald (Dr Crokes)

8. Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks)
9. David Moran (Kerins O’Rahillys)

10. Bryan Sheehan (St Marys)
11. Paul Murphy (Rathmore)
12. Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane)

13. Darran O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar)
14. Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes)
15. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare)


18. Killian Young (Renard) for Fitzgerald (45)
23. Brendan O’Sullivan (Valentia) for Walsh (54)
22. Jonathan Lyne (Killarney Legion) for Griffin (60)
19. Barry John Keane (Kerins O’Rahillys) for O’Brien (62)
20. Padraig O’Connor (Killarney Legion) for Crowley (63)
21. Michael Geaney (Dingle) for Murphy (69)

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)

– Originally published 17.17. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Dean Rock’s club as St Brigid’s, rather than Ballymun Kickhams.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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