It wasn’t McManamon’s fault that the foul went unpunished but it certainly contributed to Dublin seeing out a win they were marginally good for considering how impressively they fought back from five-point and three-point deficits in the second half.
Aidan O’Mahony had earlier escaped sanction for a similar challenge on Philly McMahon but Kerry were outraged. Éamonn Fitzmaurice may not have been drawn on the decision not to award Crowley a free but his body language said it all. Selector Mikey Sheehy’s decision to approach David Gough as he left the field uttered enough about his take on it. The unbecoming behaviour of some Kerry fans in the Cusack Stand as they showered Gough with match programmes and plastic bottles spoke volumes of their disgust.
Coming after Eoghan O’Gara had put Dublin ahead for the second time in three minutes, the call allowed Dublin to recapture the ball.
Diarmuid Connolly, who had initially gone to check on the well-being of Crowley after McManamon’s hit, had the presence of mind to rejoin the play and it was he who superbly curled over the clincher.
Kerry do have reasons for complaint — the 45 decisions earlier in the second half deserve a second look too — but much like 2013, the game was within their grasp and they let it slip. Having seen their five-point half-time lead evaporate by the 49th minute, they had the wherewithal to put together a purple patch which saw them pick off three points in seven minutes, the highlight being Barry John Keane’s curved shot from distance.
“I felt there was something about us that we just weren’t going to go away,” said Fitzmaurice, “and once we could keep the scoreboard ticking over, I felt that we were going to be well there at the end...”
Before that, Kerry had looked toothless when going forward. Paul Murphy and Tadhg Morley should have done better with their score attempts. Colm Cooper, after adding a wide of his own, dropped one short into Stephen Cluxton’s hands and substitute Stephen O’Brien was twice dispossessed. The absence of Kieran Donaghy, who had worked so well as a centre/full-forward in the first half, was greatly felt.
And yet they still led by three with seven minutes of normal time remaining when McMahon kicked over the first of four unanswered points by Dublin. Dean Rock, who missed just once from 11 deadball opportunities, added a brace of frees and then McManamon put himself forward to be Kerry’s party pooper for a third time in championship football.
O’Brien made amends for his earlier mistakes in fisting over an equaliser but O’Gara pushed Dublin ahead again before the commotion surrounding McManamon’s foul on Crowley and Connolly’s third point of the afternoon.
Kerry have never known inferiority like this and what will gall them is how ordinary they had made Dublin look in the closing stages of the first half.
Then again, they look pretty middling themselves in the opening 25 minutes when their kick-outs were disassembled by Dublin.
At least four of Dublin’s nine first-half points came as a result of Dublin winning Brian Kelly’s restarts.
At the other end, Jonny Cooper was besting his namesake Colm.
Kelly had to be sharp to keep out a Philly McMahon shot in the sixth minute when Rock and Bernard Brogan combined to put him in the danger zone.
Kerry had a hint of a goal chance two minutes earlier when a thundering Davy Byrne shoulder put off Donnchadh Walsh but it wasn’t until the 14th minute that Kerry were off and running, when David Moran sent over a fine effort.
Dublin led 0-5 to 0-1 after 15 minutes and restored that four-point advantage six minutes later although Geaney was keeping Kerry in touch and he had three points to his name by the 25th minute.
A Cooper free on the half hour mark brought Kerry to within three and from Cluxton’s resultant kick-out they snaffled a goal. A delay in Cluxton’s kick meant Kerry were able to push up and the Dublin captain’s strike towards John Small was robbed by Geaney. He made a dart towards goal, offloading to Walsh whose subtle touch into Darran O’Sullivan’s direction was just perfect.
Cooper followed up with a point, Walsh and Geaney involved once more, and a second goal came in the second additional minute as Geaney’s touch on an Anthony Maher shot that dropped short was deemed to have crossed the line, despite Cluxton and Byrne’s best efforts to prevent it.
A Cooper free finished off the half and a dazzling 13 minutes for Kerry in which they scored 2-4 without reply to lead 2-8 to 0-9 at the break. The half couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for Dublin, who were visibly reeling.
Jim Gavin paid tribute to Cluxton bringing calmness to the situation at half-time. “As a captain, he spoke very well at half-time about sticking to our game-plan. But these things happen. The way we play our game, we don’t play to deny teams space in attack and counter-attacking style. We are — in some respects — open and vulnerable and we accept that, that’s a part of our game-plan. A team like Kerry, they are going to score against you. But we stuck true to our values and that is what saw us through.”
Dublin, in total, went 17 minutes without raising a flag but through the accuracy of Rock, felt their way back into the game and ended up outscoring Kerry 0-13 to 0-6 in the second half. Like 11 months ago, Kerry kept their goal virgin from Dublin but such quality provides cold comfort this morning as the realisation sets in that they have once more finished up second best to their age-old rivals.
Another epic, another defeat.
D. Rock (0-12, 8 frees, 2 45s); D. Connolly (0-3); B. Brogan, K. McManamon (0-2 each); B. Fenton, P. McMahon, E. O’Gara (0-1 each).
P. Geaney (1-4); C. Cooper (0-5, 4 frees); D. O’Sullivan (1-0); D. Moran, B.J. Keane, J. O’Donoghue, P. Murphy, S. O’Brien (0-1 each).
S. Cluxton; D. Byrne, P. McMahon, J. Cooper; J. McCarthy, C. O’Sullivan, J. Small; B. Fenton, M.D. Macauley; P. Flynn, D. Connolly, C. Kilkenny; D. Rock, B. Brogan, K. McManamon.
P. Andrews for P. Flynn (inj 46); P. Mannion for J. Small (50); E. O’Gara for M.D. Macauley (60); M. Fitzsimons for J. Cooper (67); C. Costello for B. Brogan (70); C. Costello (black 70+5 not replaced).
B. Kelly; K. Young, S. Enright, M. Griffin; A. O’Mahony, P. Murphy, P. Crowley, T. Morley; A. Maher, D. Moran; D. Walsh, D. O’Sullivan; C. Cooper, K. Donaghy, P. Geaney.
S. O’Brien for D. O’Sullivan (inj 39); J. O’Donoghue for K. Donaghy (50); B.J. Keane for D. Walsh (52); B Ó Beaglaoich for T. Morley (56); B. Sheehan for A. Maher (59); M Ó Sé for P. Geaney (67).
D. Gough (Meath).