Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11
Dublin crushed Kerry’s challenge with a late avalanche of scores to settle an epic All-Ireland SFC semi-final in front of an enthralled full house at Croke Park.
This was a goal-fest to restore faith in the beautiful game that is gaelic football, and fans of the Metropolitans and western opponents Mayo can look forward to more of the same in next month’s Sam Maguire Cup decider.
The Dubs may have run out seven points winners, but the sides were level heading into the final minute of a memorable encounter, before substitutes Kevin McManamon and Dean Rock settled it in ruthless fashion with late goals.
The Kingdom had stunned their opponents with three first half strikes, two of them from James O’Donoghue, and had Dublin’s defence in all sorts of trouble.
But the strength of Jim Gavin’s bench was to prove decisive in the end, with all of his substitutes making telling impacts as they came strong in the closing stages.
Early points from Michael Dara Macauley and Bernard Brogan were cancelled out by James O’Donoghue’s seventh minute goal, his crisp finish from a Donnchadh Walsh pass giving Stephen Cluxton no chance.
Walsh fired in a second goal four minutes later from Darran O’Sullivan’s assist, and the Dubs were in knots at the back and in turmoil on the Hill.
But Kingdom joy lasted less than 60 seconds. Diarmuid Connolly floated in a dropping delivery from the left for Paul Mannion to punch home past a helpless Brendan Kealy.
Dublin continued to attack in numbers, and they were rewarded with scores from Cluxton (free) and Brogan as they narrowed the gap to a single point.
The Metropolitans conceded a third goal in the 20th minute when Cluxton hauled down Walsh, and O’Donoghue drilled home the penalty for a three points advantage.
Ciaran Kilkenny’s long range effort bounced over the bar, and he was on target again after Cooper and O’Donoghue had tagged on points for a Kingdom side that had bagged all their first half scores from play, and led by 3-5 to 1-9 at the interval.
Cian O’Sullivan was assigned as Cooper’s man-marker for the second half, but the Kingdom eased further ahead with two Paul Galvin scores and a Cooper free.
Jim Gavin introduced Dean Rock, who scored from his first touch, but the Dubs failed to capitalise on a golden goal chance, when Brogan’s shot lacked conviction and was easily dealt with by Kealy.
They kept plugging away, however, and narrowed the gap through Paddy Andrews and Brogan, who fired over an inspirational score and converted a free to bring them level.
Connolly arrowed over another wonderful score at the Hill 16 end to give them the lead for the first time since the seventh minute.
Having conceded five points in a row, Kerry regained their composure and their direction, with Tomas O Se pushing from deep and Anthony Maher stepping uop his workrate.
Twice they went level through Cooper and O’Donoghue, before Darran O’Sullivan streered over the lead point from a tight angle in the 63rd minute
But there was another fascinating twist in this memorable encounter, as Dublin cut loose with a devastating 2-2 salvo in the closing stages.
McManamon plundered possession 50 metres out to drive through and plant the perfect shot past Kealy, and in stoppage time, Rock punched home his side’s third after Eoghan O’Gara’s drive had smashed against the crossbar.
Dublin: S Cluxton (0-1, f), K O’Brien, R O’Carroll, J Cooper, J McCarthy, G Brennan, J McCaffrey, MD Macauley (0-1), C O’Sullivan (0-1), P Flynn, C Kilkenny (0-2), D Connolly (0-4, 1f), P Mannion (1-0), P Andrews (0-1), B Brogan (0-6, 2f).
Subs: P McMahon for O’Brien, D Bastick for Brennan, D Rock (1-2) for Kilkenny, E O’Gara for Mannion, K McManamon (1-0) for Brogan
Kerry: B Kealy: M O Se, M Griffin, S Enright, T O Se, P Crowley, F Fitzgerald, A Maher, J Buckley, P Galvin (0-2), C Cooper (0-4, 2f), D Walsh (1-0), Darran O’Sullivan (0-1), Declan O’Sullivan (0-1), J O’Donoghue (2-3).
Subs: D Moran for Buckley, E Brosnan for Enright, K Donaghy for Galvin, A O’Mahony for Griffin, K Sherwood for Crowley
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).