Dublin’s finest get final reward

Dublin 0-12 Kerry 0-9: Back in February, Paul Flynn made a daring comment about last season. Despite finishing a distant second to runners-up Donegal in an All-Ireland semi-final, he was adamant about who he felt were the finest outfit in 2014. And he wasn’t talking about Kerry.

“If you look back on the year,” he started, “if you look back on the whole season of last year, we were the best team. We played the best football but we just didn’t win the championship.”

Dublin didn’t play their best football yesterday but they played better than Kerry. That would have been enough to win them an All-Ireland last year and was more than enough to annex it on this occasion. After taking their learnings from Donegal last year, they managed to add more defensive awareness to their game at the same time playing the most aesthetically-pleasing football.

Yesterday’s victory will please them because they had to reach low for it. So low they almost shot themselves in the foot in the second half when they amassed 10 wides and saw Brian Fenton strike a post and Bernard Brogan mishit another goal chance. Kerry only lasted as long as they did because of such let-offs.

For Dublin, despite the best efforts of an inspired substitute Darran O’Sullivan, were by far the superior outfit. Fenton grew in stature and outperformed David Moran who had been the bookies’ favourite for player of the year prior to throw-in.

Flynn rose to the occasion when Dublin needed him most. Ciarán Kilkenny was the safest pair of hands when so many around him were slipping and sliding. In defence, Philly McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan were composure personified.

That nobody came away from this game with at least a couple of errors to their name will hardly sully Dublin’s triumph. That it has already been forgotten as a game of football won’t matter either. Questions had been asked of them and they were answered so competently.

Kerry could question why Kieran Donaghy wasn’t awarded a free and a penalty in the latter stages but as Eamonn Fitzmaurice noted afterwards, to have taken something from this game when they were so poor would have been “daylight robbery”.

“We were barely hanging in there and any time we got close to them, they pulled away. They missed a couple of goal chances but we didn’t really threaten them at all. Our lads never gave up but it would have been daylight robbery had we got out of it with a draw.”

Kerry handed Dublin the foothold in the first half. Yet they were ahead at one stage having gone down two points to no score early and were level in the 26th minute. But so consumed were the reigning champions with the danger of being caught on the hop by a faster Dublin side, they committed so few numbers to their attacks. It was with relative ease that McMahon and Jonny Cooper broke them down.

Dublin’s defence was disciplined, conceding no scorable free in that period, but then that was hardly surprising when they outnumbered the Kerry assaults most of the time. There was none of the dissent seen in the Mayo games either.

Dublin prospered because they were more positive, at least until the fourth quarter when they were doing everything in their power to kill the game as is their right. In that final 10-minute period of the first half, they had more support runners going forward. It said plenty about them that backs Jack McCaffrey and Philly McMahon were scorers then and Dublin merited their 0-8 to 0-4 half-time advantage.

Involved in three of Kerry’s first-half scores, Johnny Buckley was at the heart of Kerry’s best first-half football but was called ashore early in the second half having laid off the ball for a Jonathan Lyne point in the 38th minute.

Kerry needed to change tack but it was a slightly unusual decision as much as his marker Cian O’Sullivan was winning their duel. More eyebrow-raising still were the calls to bench Paul Geaney and then James O’Donoghue. Geaney had scored two points from play when he made way in the 50th minute. O’Donoghue had three to his credit before he was taken off. Together, they had contributed more than half of Kerry’s entire scoring total. When Colm Cooper was struggling, it was bizarre.

Kerry had cut Dublin’s lead in half to two in the early minutes of the second half but they were living by the seat of their pants. Paddy Andrews was just wide when he reacted well to a Denis Bastick mishit. Brogan and Fenton also spurned opportunities as Hill 16 awaited what surely would have been the killer blow.

Darran O’Sullivan’s endeavour in defence and attack brought impetus to Kerry but they continued to struggle in the middle third which should have been their greatest source of power. Flynn’s second point in the 61st minute, when he acted as a full-forward collecting Fenton’s inside pass, put three between the sides.

Killian Young fluffed a goal chance having been teed up by Donaghy and the ball was transferred down the pitch for an Alan Brogan point. Donaghy had that late penalty call go against him before Sheehan knocked over a free with still a couple of minutes remaining.

There was still a flicker of a chance for Kerry but it dimmed as Dublin wound down the clock. The conditions might have sucked the life out of this final, but Dublin extracted it from Kerry too for good measure.

After two years of trying, simply the better.

Scorers for Dublin:

B Brogan (1 free), P Flynn, D Rock (frees) (0-2 each); B Fenton, S Cluxton (free), J McCaffrey, P Andrews, P McMahon, A Brogan (0-1 each)

Scorers for Kerry:

J O’Donoghue (0-3); P Geaney, D O’Sullivan (0-2 each); J Lyne, B Sheehan (free) (0-1 each).

DUBLIN: 

S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, D Bastick; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Kilkenny; B Brogan, D Rock, P Andrews.

Subs for Dublin:

K McManamon for D Rock (h-t); MD Macauley for D Bastick (40); J Cooper for M Fitzsimons (inj 49); J Small for J McCaffrey (53); D Daly for C O’Sullivan (61); A Brogan for B Fenton (67).

KERRY: 

B Kealy; F Fitzgerald, A O’Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; D Walsh, J Buckley, S O’Brien; C Cooper, P Geaney, J O’Donoghue.

Subs for Kerry:

D O’Sullivan for S O’Brien (h-t); B Sheehan for J Buckley (44); K Donaghy for P Geaney (50); P Galvin for D Moran (57); P Murphy for A O’Mahony (black, 58); BJ Keane for J O’Donoghue (61).

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