Kerry vs Dublin - A Game for the Ages

September 3rd, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

It's an indisputable fact and much more that a coincidence that Kerry have been involved in all the greatest games of Gaelic football played down through the decades. Having seen all those classic matches since the fifties the sheer skill displayed by Kerry players when performing on the biggest stage of all in Croke Park is the one single defining tread that ties all great Kerry footballers together. Beauty, skill, perfection, poise and balance, manliness, absolute comfort when in possession of the ball under the most trying circumstances are the traits passed down from generation to generation of Kerry footballers. Last Sunday's epic clash with Dublin once again emphasized in no uncertain terms if emphases was ever needed that all these wonderful characteristics are as prevalent now as they have ever been in the long and storied history of this great football county.

While the "experts' and critics will enjoy indulging in the pros and cons of how exactly the game was won and lost both on the field of play and by the side line generals for me on this occasion such analysis must take second place. This was a game for the ages-a classic in my humble opinion, equal to any of such importance that we have witnessed in the past. Played before 85,553 awe struck spectators and thousands watching on television and listening on the magic radio around the world, (one man texted me that he listened to Radio Kerry sitting around a camp fire in the outback with a group of native Australian aborigines) it was one of those unforgettable sporting occasions that will forever remain etched in the memories of those privileged to be present.

To put is as simply as possible, this game had everything. There were thrilling and career defining displays from players on both sides all over the field, magical goals, endless drama wonderful point kicking and loads of controversy. There were so many twists and turns as the play ebbed and flowed at breathtaking speed from end to end that supporters of both sides generated such enormous noise levels I have rarely if ever experienced before in this superb stadium. No one would have complained if this epic battle had ended in a draw and for long periods of the stunning second half, it appeared a real possibility. Then in the 70th minute came the moment that decided this classic. And once again that man Kevin McManamon entered the scene in the most dramatic fashion of all just as he did in the final of 2011 when he shattered Kerry dreams with a late late goal.

The brilliant Declan o Sullivan (what a magnificent servant he has been to Kerry), kicked wide at the canal end when usually from such positions the Dromid man would raise a white flag. Dublin goalkeeper Cluxton was forced to kick long and high to the center, the Kerry midfielders got themselves in a right muddle, Michael Darragh Macaulay was the quickest to react to the breaking ball while he was on the ground, as he palmed the ball on to McManamon who unaccountably was completely unmarked. The Dublin substitute hared in for the Kerry goal, Brendan Kealy the Kerry custodian advanced to the verge of his small square, McManamon chipped the ball as if satisfied with a point but the ball dipped and in this one fatal moment the game was decided as the ball nestled in the back of the Kerry net.

As someone said one time, there are statistics and damm statistics but some you can not ignore. And the most damming of all from a Kerry perspective is the fact that Dublin scored 2- 9 in that pulsating second half, Kerry scored 0-6. The Dublin substitutes scored 2-3, the Kerry substitutes failed to contribute to the score board. And it was in those last ten minutes that the relentless, powerful, all action running of the blues finally wore down the magnificent brave never say die Kerrymen. Also when Kieran Donaghy came on in the 53rd minute the Kerry attack changed its style to the disadvantage of the team. A series of long high balls were kicked in to where the Stacks man was stationed in the hope of gaining possession. However the Dublin defense were well primed for this and simply broken the ball and had men lined up to clear the danger. Crucial possession was therefore conceded at such a vital stage of the game and if Star had been sent to the mid field position I believe he would have contributed much more there. Colm Coopers display on the forty has rightly so been recognized as one best seen in Croke Park. It was mesmerizing stuff to watch as he sprayed a series of passes all over the field with pin point delivery. His marker Ger Brennan had a torrid time and the Dublin mentors were slow enough to substitute him and Cian o Sullivan certainly improved the situation but Coopers display ranks as one of the best I have ever seen from a center forward in Croke Park. James o Donoghue was an also revelation and his speed, quick turn and deadly finishing was a joy to behold. His ice cool composure when dispatching the penalty in front of the massive mob of baying Dublin supporters on the Hill was remarkable.

Of course it's a game that could have been won had the scoring opportunities been taken when they arose. However I felt that Dublin were relentless and they showed tremendous courage and temperament after conceding three first half goals and coming back time and again when Kerry raced into the lead. I am staying with them to win the final but I sincerely hope Mayo will prove me wrong and have their long awaited day in the sun. They deserve it. There will be retirements from the Kerry squad but not one of those players who decide to hang up their boots owes their county the slightest thing. They have given their all and last Sunday was one of their finest ever displays. Eamon Fitzmaurice and his fellow selectors will be bitterly disappointed. It small consultation to them that they were part of one of the greatest games of Gaelic football ever witnessed. Both they and Dublin have restored our faith in the game as it should be played. If others at both club and county level would attempt to follow suit then the legacy of this one single titanic battle both for victor and vanquished will be even more memorable.

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