This was a game that spilled far beyond the boundaries of the 70 minutes or one spring campaign. It brings Dublin’s two-year unbeaten league and championship run to an end and gives Eamonn Fitzmaurice only a second win over the old foe in ten attempts.
It also gives heart to the neutral that the summer ahead doesn’t have to be a one-way ticket to another blue parade in September and, maybe most importantly of all, it proves Fitzmaurice’s point that no team is whiter than white.
The Kerry manager had teed this one up nicely in midweek when he decried the narrative that Kerry are the aggressors and Dublin the purists after the sides’ tetchy meeting in Tralee three weeks ago. Both sides duly made his point here.
It wasn’t Tralee. Not quite.
Thirteen yellow cards were handed out that evening. The final count here was six yellows and three blacks and players of both hues landed themselves in the dock of public opinion with individual acts of spite while tactical fouling was rife.
If this was two Ulster sides, the condemnation would be universal.
Bernard Brogan started it four minutes in with a cynical pull back of Mark Griffin in midfield. The deciding moment was teed up one goal and 36 points later with Anthony Maher grabbing Michael Fitzsimons’ jersey in injury-time as Dublin sought the equaliser.
That latter foul was pivotal.
It left Dean Rock with a kick of just over 45m to claim an equaliser and send the day into extra-time. The Ballymun man’s free pinged back off a post and into the arms of Ronan Shanahan before the last whistle shrilled.
The experiences and spaces shared by Donnchadh Walsh and James McCarthy were the game in microcosm. Walsh was superb throughout and McCarthy rarely less than very good but the pair probably shouldn’t have been around for the entirety of it.
Walsh escaped sanction of all colours for a light slap to the Dublin defender’s face in the first half as they both looked to retrieve a dead ball underneath Hill 16 and he shipped a sucker punch to the guts from his man in the second.
As it was, all the black cards awarded would have telling effect.
Kerry had begun with promise. David Moran, superb all day, and Jack Barry were outdoing Brian Fenton and Ciaran Reddin in the midfield but they were struggling to feed Paul Geaney inside and that was an issue, especially with Dublin finding scores easier.
Jonathan Lyne had been doing a decent job of providing cover as a sweeper but he was shown the line for hauling Diarmuid Connolly down after 26 minutes as the St Vincent’s forward cantered towards the Kerry square.
Three minutes later and Connolly was off as well, his sin in yanking Lyne’s replacement, Gavin Crowley, back by the collar off the ball being spotted by a linesman and duly reported to Roscommon referee Paddy Neilan.
Dublin were leading 0-8 to 0-5 at the time but Connolly’s exit ricocheted the game in an unexpected direction. Ten of the next 12 points were scored by a Kerryman, Dublin going the first 18 minutes of the second half without a flag.
The four-in-a-row champions were coughing up ball like a 20 smokes-a-day miner and, though Kerry let loose a number of failed attempts on the sticks in that third quarter, they were frustrating Dublin with their press and, it has to be said, a slew of cynical fouls.
It might have been karma then that played a hand at that point. As Dublin found their feet again, they managed two points that should have been prevented by earlier frees to Kerry at the other end as Jim Gavin’s side looked to launch yet another late surge past the tape.
Stephen Cluxton had already denied Moran a goal with a save 22 minutes in and he repeated the trick with just 11 minutes to go when Tadhg Morley’s attempt was diverted and Kevin McCarthy’s follow-up deflected wide by Philly McMahon.
Not long after and Paul Mannion blew the doors off the game, his low finish under Brendan Kealy and past two covering defenders on the line disturbing the net and leaving Kerry just a point to the good on a score of 0-17 to 1-13.
How often had Kerry fallen away to Dublin in circumstances like this in recent times? How often have others? Dublin’s bench looked the stronger, but then so did their first 15. Luck has been with them at times, too, but not this time, Not this day.
A decent penalty shout for Dean Rock after a tangle with Mark Griffin was ignored as the hour passed and, with the game in injury-time and Kerry up by one, Maher sent Niall Scully crashing to the ground from a kick-out that ended with Bryan Sheehan claiming their last score.
The lack of a free was astonishing.
Maher’s subsequent tug on Fitzsimons would earn him a black card and, as it turned out, the title for Kerry and a first win over Dublin in HQ since 2012. It’s not the first time we’ve seen such crimes pay on big days out at Croke Park. And it won’t be the last.
A brilliant, terrible beauty of a game.
D Rock (0-6, 4 frees); P Mannion (1-2); C Reddin and C Kilkenny (both 0-2); P McMahon, J McCarthy, P Flynn, D Connolly (all 0-1).
P Geaney (0-8, 5 frees); D Moran (0-3); M Geaney and D Walsh (both 0-2); J Barry, P Murphy, K McCarthy, J Savage and B Sheehan (all 0-1).
S Cluxton; P McMahon, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, E Lowndes; B Fenton, C Kilkenny; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Reddin; B Brogan, D Rock, P Andrews.
N Scully for Connolly (black, 29); P Mannion for Andrews (41); MD Macauley for Reddin and K McManamon for O’Sullivan (both 51); D Byrne for Lowndes (61); BJ Keane for McCarthy (63); E O’Gara for Flynn (68).
B Kealy; R Shanahan, M Griffin, F Fitzgerald; T Morley, P Murphy, P Crowley; D Moran, J Barry; J Lyne, M Geaney, D Walsh; K McCarthy, P Geaney, J Savage.
G Crowley for Lyne (black, 26); D O’Sullivan for Savage (60); B Sheehan for Walsh (67); A Maher for Barry (70); A Spillane for M Geaney (72).
P Neilan (Roscommon).