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5 talking points after Kerry and Dublin's thrilling All-Ireland final draw

Dean Rock and Sean O’Shea scored 20 points between them yesterday.

Dean Rock and Sean O'Shea after the former sent a last-ditch free wide.
Dean Rock and Sean O'Shea after the former sent a last-ditch free wide.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

 1. Thrilling finale

FIRST THINGS FIRST, those final 20 minutes were about as heart-stopping anything Gaelic football has offered up in recent memory. With history on the line, the 14 men of Dublin led by five on 55 minutes but Kerry had worked themselves into a one-point lead by the 74th minute.

Three sons of the 1982 team  – David Moran, Tommy Walsh and Killian Spillane – almost drove the Kingdom to victory in a frenetic final quarter.

Staring defeat in the face, Dublin worked several scoring chances before Rock curled over the equaliser from play and then sent a late free from a very tough angle wide. The tension in the stadium was almost unbearable by that stage as every turnover or missed shot was celebrated almost as wildly as a score.

In the end, both sets of players and supporters were relieved to have another day out. 

2. Cooper’s red card

Just like the hurling final, a first-half red card changed the course of this game. Jonny Cooper could have few complaints for his double booking after he fouled David Clifford three times, including for a penalty that Paul Geaney missed. 

The presence of Paul Murphy as a sweeper in front of the full-back line meant Dublin couldn’t hit their full-forward line with early ball.

If it was 15-on-15 Dublin probably would have won this game and Kerry will be frustrated at their failure to put them away after playing with an extra man

Peter Keane’s side were fortunate that Tom O’Sullivan wasn’t dismissed for a second yellow after he took down John Small in the 51st minute. Hawk-Eye also ruled out a Cormac Costello point in the 70th minute by a matter of inches. 

3. Kerry get so much right

Much of the pre-game build-up surrounded the match-ups and particularly questions around Kerry’s ability to live with Dublin’s forwards. But Tadhg Morley and Tom O’Sullivan did brilliantly on Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan respectively, while Gavin Crowley restricted Ciaran Kilkenny’s influence. 

Shane Ryan had a very good afternoon on kick-outs as Kerry retained 74% of his restarts, including several risky short passes that he pulled off under pressure. 

The Kingdom also had a far greater impact off their bench with Killian Spillane and Tommy Walsh contributing 1-2 between them.

4. Dublin’s remarkable self-belief

They saw a five-point lead evaporate, had a man sent-off, conceded a penalty and saw a late point ruled out by Hawk-Eye but never panicked or lost faith. 

The way Dublin were able to work short kick-outs and hold onto possession for long spells despite playing the entire second period with 14 men says a lot about their fitness levels and work-rate.

They created enough chances in stoppage-time to have won the game outright and will fancy their chances of learning from this game and turning things around for the replay.

5. Free-takers step up 

Rock’s late missed free from the sideline won’t be held against him given the difficulty of the angle and distance from the posts. He has a habit of coming good on All-Ireland final day and delivered a 10-point haul from 13 shots. 

Sean O’Shea was in even more electric form, scoring from every single one of his 10 attempts at goal. He slotted over three 45s, four frees and three from play in a majestic kicking display.

Rock and O’Shea are central to their respective teams and they showed why yesterday. 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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