Paradise lost or great expectations? This was no Penguin Classic but it will have the look of one for Kerry.
They are unlikely to enjoy a numerical advantage for such an extended period of time on Saturday week. When you come at the king, you best not miss, although where there was hope there is now belief. That was never in doubt in Peter Keane’s camp but it will envelop the county now.
It was at the 37th time of asking that Dublin’s unbeaten run across league and championship was brought to an end by Kerry in the 2017 Division 1 final.
It will be at the 37th time of asking that they have the opportunity to break an identical defeat-less championship record of Dublin’s on September 14.
Going a man up as they did when Jonny Cooper copped a second yellow card before the interval offered no guarantee only some comfort of space.
After all, Dublin have made light of such setbacks in the past such as in their Leinster opener against Louth back in May.
And Kerry were staring at a five-point deficit with 15 minutes of normal time remaining having been four behind at half-time, 1-9 to 0-8.
Dublin’s seven second-half points might read as measly but then Kerry didn’t manage a score for the last 12 minutes of action.
David Moran gave a performance as authoritative as his rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann before throw-in but he will kick himself for getting isolated for the ultimate equaliser. Kevin McManamon helped to snatch the ball from him and Eoin Murchan cantered forward to set up Dean Rock for that score in the fourth minute of additional time.
Just before that, Paul Murphy will also look hard at himself for giving up possession at a time when Kerry had the superior bodies count but not the composure to match it and see this one out.
Jim Gavin, who was quicker to criticise his team’s show than that of the referee, will be glad of the second bite of the cherry as much as Rock had that late kick from close to the Cusack Stand goal-line to replicate his heroics of 2017.
His midfield was beaten and a couple of his calls on the sideline were hesitant - it took an age for Diarmuid Connolly to come on and Philly McMahon was ready to be introduced but didn’t come on.
That Brian Howard was taken off when he had given an almighty display in the middle third to compensate for his midfielders was unusual.
True, he had kicked a wide just beforehand but there was little sign of him flagging.
There were good contributions from the Dublin bench but they paled in comparison to Kerry’s where for the second game in succession they made a difference, none more so than Tommy Walsh who was involved in the goal and then, after kicking a poor wide, took a fine score before laying off neatly to Seán O’Shea after collecting a ball from his clubmate Moran.
Jack Sherwood again added vim to the middle where Adrian Spillane and late replacement Jack Barry had been solid accomplices to Moran, while the coolness with which Killian Spillane took his 56th-minute goal and 10 minutes later a point spoke volumes of the man.
Here was a young man who from Friday evening would have received umpteen messages of congratulations and best wishes after he had been announced to start the game only to be confirmed as a drop-out for Barry 30 minutes before throw-in.
There was fortune about the goal, David Byrne doing well to catch Moran’s kick-pass aimed for Walsh. Byrne lost possession upon falling and Walsh was able to deliver into Spillane’s path and he did the rest.
When many were expecting a Dublin coup de grace, Kerry found themselves. Walsh pointed three minutes afterwards and then O’Shea sent over the leveller from an acute angle. Rock and O’Shea exchanged points prior to Kerry going ahead in the 66th minute through Spillane for the first time since the 18th minute.
After Jack McCaffrey had nicked the ball from Murphy, Cormac Costello looked to have cancelled it out in the last minute of normal time only for HawkEye to overrule the umpire, but Rock’s personal tally climbed to double digits on maximising that turnover on Moran to complete the scoring.
Man of the match in last year’s final, McCaffrey had been sublime in this, thriving in the battle of speed with Gavin White and taking his goal so well in the 19th minute after Brian Howard’s marvellous kickout fetch from Cluxton.
They were Dublin’s three best men, Howard excelling in all the duties he carried out and McCaffrey helping himself to three second-half points.
Paul Mannion began as if he was going to be one of them, scoring two points in the opening 16 minutes, but faded out badly.
Dublin had led 0-3 to 0-1 when Kerry, who were also making great turnovers, forced Stephen Cluxton into a temporary wobble on his kickouts.
James McCarthy saved with his knees when Geaney struck for goal in the sixth minute. Cluxton at least denied Geaney from the penalty spot in the 13th minute after Cooper had dragged Clifford but his ordeal lasted a bit longer as Jack Barry won two of his kickouts.
Kicking over the press, Howard fielded majestically from Cluxton to initiate the move for McCaffrey’s goal and Kerry were left to rue a host of wides, Clifford kicking two and bombing one short.
After that, it was Shane Ryan’s turn to worry on restarts and Dublin twice went five points ahead.
They turned four up having coughed up a point for Cooper’s dismissal as he fouled Clifford one too many times and that advantage was cut to two inside the opening six minutes of the second half thanks to two O’Shea 45s.
Cluxton did brilliantly to tip a Murphy shot onto the crossbar and Dublin breathed a sigh of relief when Stephen O’Brien was not awarded a penalty as McCaffrey challenged him.
Then again, Dublin had their own shout turned down as Tom O’Sullivan impeded Con O’Callaghan and was fortunate to remain on the field after a second hefty foul, this time on John Small.
Had Kerry clung on, that would have been the shove to Seamus Darby’s push. Kerry have another chance to emulate Offaly in 1982 in 12 days’ time but this Dublin team, when they have been asked twice, have answered the second time around.
Scorers for Dublin: D. Rock (0-10, 7 frees, 1 45); J. McCaffrey (1-3); P. Mannion (0-2); C. O’Callaghan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerry: S. O’Shea (0-10, 4 frees, 3 45s); K. Spillane (1-1); D. Clifford (0-2); S. O’Brien, G. Crowley, T. Walsh (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: S. Cluxton (c); M. Fitzsimons, J. Cooper; D. Byrne, J. McCarthy, J. McCaffrey; B. Fenton, M.D. Macauley, D. Byrne; N. Scully, C. Kilkenny, B. Howard; P. Mannion, C. O’Callaghan, D. Rock.
Subs for Dublin: P. Small for M.D. Macauley (52); E. Murchan for J. Small (blood, 57-ft); D. Connolly for B. Howard, C. Costello for P. Mannion (both 68); K. McManamon for N. Scully (70).
Sent off: J. Cooper (second yellow, 35).
KERRY: S. Ryan; J. Foley, T. O’Sullivan, T. Morley; P. Murphy, G. Crowley, B. Ó Beaglaoich; D. Moran, A. Spillane, J. Barry; G. White (c); S. O’Shea, S. O’Brien; P. Geaney, D. Clifford.
Subs for Kerry: K. Spillane for A. Spillane (45); J. Sherwood for G. White (49); T. Walsh for B. Ó Beaglaoich (53); J. Lyne for G. Crowley (68); D. Moynihan for J. Barry (70+3); M. Griffin for S. O’Brien (70+8).
Referee: D. Gough (Meath).