McNally inspirational as Dubs reach first final

Dublin0-13 Kerry0-8

But so much of the credit must go to their longest-serving player, midfielder Angie McNally.

A five-point return from the 35-year-old teacher was testament to her many forays forward, but it told only half the tale, because the McNally was everywhere, defending, attacking, holding the middle, never faltering despite the heavy humidity.

Kerry were favourites coming into this game, their super-talented twin strike-force of Kasey O'Driscoll and team captain Geraldine O'Shea were expected to repeat the damage done in their quarter-final win over Laois.

In a first-half in which they had the advantage of the considerable breeze, O'Shea and O'Driscoll, who began the game isolated inside in a two-woman full-forward line, did manage to contribute three points each, giving Kerry an 0-7 to 0-3 half-time lead. But it was never going to be enough.

Dublin had very obviously done their homework and played experienced centre-back and captain Martina Farrell just in front of the dangerous duo. The ploy worked a treat.

Just four years behind McNally in age and experience, Farrell read the play perfectly, cut off the supply lines inside, before commencing wonderful attacking forays.

"Their tactics really worked," said a rueful O'Shea afterwards, "the game was won and lost in the first-half. We couldn't get the scores to give us the cushion we needed against the wind."

That was the 60 minutes of football in a nutshell. A point within 30 seconds of the restart by wing-forward Karen Hopkins got them on track. Angie thundered onto the scoreboard with a brace, shortly followed by points from full-forward Louise Kelly and courageous sub Gemma Fay who overcame the pain of a broken nose to partake. Eight minutes into the half, Dublin were nudging ahead by a point, (0-8 to 0-7).

Gradually, the Kerry threat evaporated. O'Driscoll, having long been forced from the danger area, was hunting deeper for ball while O'Shea was left alone inside, being watched by the duo of Farrell and full-back Louise Keegan. With three minutes to go, Kerry did finally manage a second-half point, but it wasn't even consolation.

"They were just too good for us," conceded a gracious O'Shea, "they pulled away in the second-half, even after they had a player sent off (Orla Conleavy, second yellow card for her persistent fouling of O'Driscoll). They were much stronger on the day. We have no excuses."

For the Dubs however, and for veteran McNally especially the victory heralded unbridled joy.

"I can't begin to explain," she gasped, in the midst of hundreds of jubilant fans, "this is the ultimate for me, my dream come true. We have been trying for years to get to Croke Park and now we're there. Much of the credit must go to our management team, they were superb. We've been properly prepared for every single game, and this is down to them."

Mayo now await in the final, and a chance for the Dubs to avenge last year's semi-final loss.

With Angie in that form, they have every chance.

Scorers Dublin: A. McNally 0-5; K. Hopkins 0-2; B. Finlay 0-2; M. Nevin 0-2 (frees); L. Kelly 0-1; G. Fay 0-1.

Kerry: G. O'Shea 0-4 (0-2 frees); K. O'Driscoll 0-3 (0-2 frees); K. Kenneally 0-1.

DUBLIN: C. O'Connor; S. Farrelly, L. Keegan, M. Kavanagh; N. Hurley, M. Farrell (c), O. Colreavy; A. McNally, N. McEvoy; B. Finlay, E. Murphy, K. Hopkins; M. Nevin, L. Kelly, A. McCormick. Subs: G. Fay (McCormick 28); E. Kelly (Nevin 40).

KERRY: A. O'Donoghue; L. Ross, G. Ni Flatharta, J. Murnane; S. O'Connor, C. Kelly, K. Gleeson; M. Finnegan, E. O'Connell; K. Kenneally, K. O'Driscoll, N. Fealey; P. Dennehy, G. O'Shea (c), D. Corridon. Subs: S. Delaney (Corridon 27); C. Sexton (O'Connell 27); D. Fenton (Feeley 45); R. Ní Chinneide (Finnegan 52).

Referee: P. Daly (Westmeath).

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