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Con v Clifford, Kerry's thrilling comeback and the Dublin goal threat

5 talking points after today’s dramatic draw between Gaelic football’s greatest rivals.

1. Kerry’s third quarter revival

FOR THE THIRD time in four league and championship games, a meeting between the two greatest rivals in Gaelic football finished level. 

david-clifford-scores-a-penalty-to-end-the-game-in-a-draw Kerry's David Clifford scores a penalty to end the game in a draw. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

It was an absorbing contest. But when Dublin held onto the ball for the first three minutes of the second-half before Cormac Costello put them seven points clear, it looked like the All-Ireland champions might win at a canter. 

Kerry’s third quarter resurgence was impressive. Killian Spillane found himself withdrawn at half-time and his replacement Tommy Walsh made a big difference. In the 44th minute, Peter Keane took off Paul Geaney and David Moran, introducing younger legs in Ronan Buckley and Adrian Spillane. 

Over the next 12 minutes, Kerry outscored Dublin by 0-8 to 0-1. David Clifford started to shake free of Mick Fitzsimons, Diarmuid O’Connor came up with some important ball in midfield and the likes of Sean O’Shea and Brian O Beaglaoich made important interceptions.

Paul Murphy broke forward for two vital scores and even after Costello stuck home a penalty, Kerry had enough resolve to win a spot kick of their own through Stephen O’Brien. 

It’s been a while since Dublin let a seven point lead slip in such a high profile fixture. Credit must go to Kerry for their second-half fightback.  

2. Dublin goal chances

Keane trusted his defenders to go one-on-one with their men and started with six forwards that he backed to outscore the Dublin attack. After the opening 35 minutes, it looked like a big mistake not to shore up the back line more.

Between the 16th and 21st minute, Ciaran Kilkenny was instrumental in the moves that resulted in goals for Con O’Callaghan and Costello. O’Callaghan forced a good save from Kieran Fitzgibbon and then outmuscled Murphy to a long Niall Scully delivery and buried his second goal. 

“We were delighted with the creation of the chances, it was just the execution and how we went about our business, we were a little bit off in front of goal today,” remarked stand-in boss Mick Galvin afterwards. 

His assessment was correct. Dublin converted just six of 14 shots at the posts in the first period and three of five in the second. Costello’s 59th minute penalty, won by O’Callaghan, glossed over a poor second-half of attacking play. 

Yet that’s four penalties they’ve won and five goals they’ve scored in two games, while Paddy Small, O’Callaghan and Costello took Kerry for 4-7.  

jason-foley-with-con-ocallaghan Con O'Callaghan shrugs off Jason Foley. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

3. Con v Clifford

At one end there was Con, at the other it was Clifford. It was mesmerising stuff watching arguably the two best inside forwards in the game driving their teams on.

Fitzsimons is among the tightest markers out there and he showed excellent footwork to hold up Clifford brilliantly on many occasions, limiting him of scoring opportunities on his favoured left side. So three of Clifford’s five scores from play came off his right foot, each one guided over with absolute conviction in tight confines.

When Kerry fell seven behind and needed leaders, the Fossa man stood up in a major way.

O’Callaghan (25) is three years Clifford’s senior and already has five Celtic Crosses and two All-Stars in his medal cabinet. He was unmarkable at stages, bullying his way through the Kingdom defence with his uniquely direct approach. 

“To be honest with you I think we are just lucky to have two great footballers, one in each county, they are great advertisements and great footballers,” said Mick Galvin of the pair.

“They are different, we’re happy with Con, they’re happy with David, we’ll see how it pans out as the year goes ahead.”

4. Injuries

The big post-match concern for Dublin was the nature of the hamstring injury that forced John Small to limp off in the 51st minute. 

“It doesn’t look good, to be honest with you,” admitted Galvin. “I think it’s a hamstring injury, so we just have to get the medics to have a look at him and we’ll see how he is during the week, we’ll get scans done and we’ll know more then.”

On the plus side for Dublin, Evan Comerford returned between the posts. Brian Howard and Jonny Cooper made their first appearances of the year off the bench.

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Dean Rock is expected to be fit for the final group game against Galway and Stephen Cluxton will be available for selection within the next two weeks according to the Na Fianna clubman.

One of the biggest plusses that came out of the game for Keane was that Kerry didn’t pick-up any injuries.

“My priority is that we’re injury free,” he said. “We’ve played two games and got 26 players playing for Kerry in those two games. hopefully we’ll have the other three boys to come into it next weekend.”

He confirmed he plans to rotate the team for next weekend’s trip to Roscommon, when he’s hopeful the likes of Shane Ryan, Tom O’Sullivan and Tony Brosnan will return.

kerry-team-huddle-after-the-game The Kerry team huddle after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Next weekend

After two games, Kerry and Dublin sit on top of Division 1 South with three points apiece, while Galway have two and Roscommon are pointless.

Defeat for Dublin against Galway next weekend could still knock them out of contention to reach the Division 1 semi-finals.

Kerry are in a stronger position with their +22 scoring difference, compared to Dublin’s +9. Avoiding a heavy defeat against Anthony Cunningham’s Roscommon should be enough to see them progress.

Dublin need just a point on the final day to guarantee a finish inside the top two, with Galway’s fate still in their own hands following today’s win over the Rossies. 

If Kerry avoid a heavy loss and Galway win they’ll both progress. A Galway draw against Dublin would likely send the Tribesmen into the relegation playoffs on scoring difference. 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Semple Stadium

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