Posted by Ciaran Whelan
Sunday 18 September 2011
It was a great game of football and, finally, Dublin can stop talking about 1995 as a new group of heroes write their names in history......
First of all I have to say it is a really proud day to be a Dub. It has been 16 long years since we last brought Sam back to the capital and I've experienced a number of hard days with the lads in the intervening years. Pat Gilroy and his side deserve massive plaudits for a fantastic achievement in what was a fascinating game.
The build-up to the senior game was that little bit more nervy given what happened in to the minors against Tipperary. I feel for the Dublin youngsters and it is a pity that they couldn't make it a double but Tipp did exceptionally well to work their way back into the game in the second half.
Dublin had dominated possession for long stages but didn't make that superiority tell enough on the scoreboard and they never managed to put Tipp away. It is especially tough on Ross O'Hanlon but the finish from Colman Kennedy was absolutely top-drawer. Tipperary, like Dublin, have put serious effort into creating a very successful under-age structure and this is just reward for manager David Power and his players and everyone who has worked with young footballers in the county.
It was a bit of an ominous sign for the senior side but they started as I thought they would and kept things tight early on. It was a real edge-of-the seat game right from the first whistle and you just couldn't take your eyes off it. Kerry were swift out of the blocks but the Dublin defence was excellent, as it has been all year. Colm Cooper's goal was a blow but in fairness Dublin didn't panic and did well to go into the break with a one-point lead.
Dublin started the second half in the same tone but then went through a bad spell where Kerry out-pointed them by eight points to one from the 42nd to the 63rd minute and The Kingdom looked to be in cruise control at that stage.
A significant development in Jack O'Connor's side's improvement was the redeployment of Kieran Donaghy to the full-forward position. He caused problems for the Dublin defence that had been doing well to frustrate the O'Sullivans, Declan and Darran, up to that point. Donaghy might even have scored a second Kerry goal eight minutes into the second half but he took his point and it was one of a number of breaks that Dublin got during the game.
I always felt Dublin's fitness would play a big part towards the end of the game. They have shown over the summer that they are strong when the game enters the last 10 minutes and, with Kerry looking out on their feet after taking a four-point lead, that proved to be the case again.
Once more it was Kevin McManamon entering the fray that made the big difference and gave Dublin impetus. As he did in the semi-final against Donegal he immediately got into the game and, just when Gilroy's side needed a break, he was the one to get the goal. It was sloppy play on Kerry's part but McManamon did well to skip past Declan O'Sullivan and finish with a great deal of composure for such a big occasion.
McManamon caused Kerry all sorts of problems and it was from there that Dublin built up momentum and grew in confidence. It must be said though that they did get a number of soft frees from referee Joe McQuillan and his performance wasn't the best. And once Dublin had the goal you could see the belief flow back into them. Kevin Nolan then scored a brilliant point from a fair distance out to bring the sides level and the noise that the fans were making at that stage was a huge help to their team.
It was fitting that a superb final and a breathtaking second half should have such a climax. After Donaghy had scored a wonderful point to level the game in the last minute it was McMenamon again who won the free that gave Stephen Cluxton the chance to win it. If there is one man you would trust to remain calm and collected in that situation it is the Dublin keeper. It is a score that made history and will be replayed again and again for years to come.
It was the perfect end to Dublin's summer and a testament to Gilroy's influence on the side since he took over. I'm delighted that they have been rewarded for the work they have put in over the last couple of years. The scenes at the end of the game were special and it was an emotional outpouring from players and fans after so many years of disappointment.
The championship always deserves finishes like the one we saw today and I'm thrilled it was Dublin that provided it.
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