Last year, these two teams met and played out a drab draw at the first time of asking. But there was nothing drab about Saturday’s game in Navan.
Kildare looked on course to retain the title after Ross Glavin guided Michael Foley’s perceptive pass beyond Dublin ‘keeper Michael Savage on 53 minutes.
In a game always delicately poised, Glavin’s goal looked as if it was going to be crucial, especially as Dublin had played the entire second half without the potent Mark Vaughan, who was dismissed for striking James Longeran.
Enter Daibheach Dineen. Sprung from the bench with five minutes remaining, Dineen reacted swiftest to Ger O’Meara’s hopeful cross from the right side, and he smashed the ball into the bottom corner, past a helpless Tomas Corley for the equaliser. Vaughan and Dineen aside, Dublin lacked calm heads in front of goal, missing four glorious chances in the first half. Instead of having a healthy half-time lead to reflect upon, Dublin had to be content going in at the break level, 0-7 each.
And this despite Kildare playing like a team woken from a heavy sleep for the first 20 minute
By the 22nd minute, they had only scored two points and trailed Dublin by four, 0-6 to 0-2.
That three of those Dublin points came from the boot of Vaughan was a telling statistic. Bernard Brogan was kept quiet by Ian Longeran, while the other Dublin forwards simply could not take advantage of their scoring opportunities.
After Vaughan’s dismissal, Bryan Cullen starred at centre-back and Ian Ward played a captain’s role with a superb individual score, all the way from corner-back, in the 50th minute.
By that stage, Kildare were reduced to 14 men, their full back Richie Nevin dismissed for a second yellow card in the 47th minute.
Dineen’s finish meant the teams and supporters looked set for another day, but there was more drama in the grandstand finale.
Westmeath referee Paul Fox didn’t endear himself to either side with a series of bizarre decisions. When he gave a free to Kildare in the dying seconds, veins were throbbing down Dublin foreheads. In fairness, it was one of his more clear-cut decisions.
Darryl Flynn spotted a gap in the Dublin defence and accelerated through it before being pushed.
Thirty yards out and dead in front of the posts, James Kavanagh’s free drifted to the left and wide.
Seconds later, Fox called a halt.
: Dublin: M Vaughan (0-3, 2 50s), D Dineen(1-0), B Brogan, G O’Meara (0-2 each), N Cooper, I Ward (0-1 each), J O’Brien (0-1, free). Kildare: R Glavin (1-1), T O’Neill (0-3), P O’Neill, D Flynn (0-2 each), M Conway, J Kavanagh (0-1 each).
: M Savage; I Ward, W Lowry, D McCann, R Fallon, B Cullen, G Brennan; E Fennell, B Phelan; N Cooper, J O’Brien, G O’Meara, B Brogan, M Davoren, M Vaughan. Subs: D O’Mahoney for Brennan (44 mins), N McGrath for Fallon (46 mins), K Leahy for O’Brien (48 mins), D Dineen for Davoren (54 mins).
: T Corley; M Hogarty, R Nevin, C Fagan, M Scanlon, M Foley, J Lonergan, D Flynn, H Lynch; T O’Neill, P O’Neill, J Kavanagh, M Conway, R Glavin, T Archibald. Subs: I Longeran for Fagan (14 mins), A Kelly for Lynch (50 mins), P Doyle for Scanlon (58 mins).
: P Fox (Westmeath).