Dublin 1-22 Kildare 1-12
When the time comes for this generation’s football fans to tell their grandchildren about legends of the game and epic performances, they will inevitably speak of Kevin McManamon.
Any man who breaks Kerry hearts twice at Croke Park is worth his place in the history books.
The strange thing is, McManamon still isn’t deemed worthy of a sustained place in this Dublin team.
In any other county he would be a talisman forward yet, for Dublin, he has started and finished just one championship game in four years.
But like a coiled spring, the 27-year old appears to have limitless energy and enthusiasm for bouncing back. His latest tour de force came on Saturday evening, yielding eight points and a man-of-the-match display as Dublin inflicted more misery on Kildare.
McManamon’s last sustained run of game time was a year ago when he started and finished three league games, though he didn’t start the semi-final or final nor a single championship match.
So is he destined to be an impact sub whatever he does?
Boss Jim Gavin replied: “No, we don’t see him like that at all. He’s one of a group of forwards at our disposal and depending on the games we play, we try to use who we feel we need.
“That’s the job of management, to use your players, your assets, as best you can. We try to get the formations right and it worked for us today.
“Kevin is an example of the diligence and how the players apply themselves. They’re always trying to improve. I’m sure it’s the same for every player in every county throughout the country.
“But delighted for Kevin, he put a big shift in there and got some great scores.”
While Gavin is loath to heap too much praise on players, opposing manager Jason Ryan admitted that McManamon was simply unstoppable.
McManamon went through three different Kildare markers over the 70 or so minutes, including Hugh McGrillen who was the first player substituted.
Ryan said: “If he [McManamon] gets confident and gets a number of scores, they seem to keep coming. He seems to be a player that thrives on a number of scores and develops from there. We struggled with his speed and his strength and his finishing was clinical. We didn’t have a great deal of answers for him whatever we tried.”
It was a third heavy defeat for Kildare against Dublin at Croke Park in 12 months. They won a memorable O’Byrne Cup final encounter with Dublin in January of last year but since then have lost by margins of 13, 16 and, now, 10 points to their neighbours.
There were crumbs of comfort from the latest defeat. Kildare had half a dozen goal chances, several of them gilt edged, so the winning margin flattered the hosts slightly.
Darroch Mulhall, Kildare’s find of the season, slotted 1-6 and hauled them back with a great goal after a slow start. They trailed 1-10 to 1-6 at half-time and reduced the arrears to three points on a couple of occasions in the second half.
With just four between them, Cathal McNally hit the Dublin crossbar. Soon after, Tom O’Connor wasted another goal opportunity and Dublin capitalised, moving five clear with a Cian O’Sullivan point. From there, they didn’t look back and doubled that margin by full-time, with McManamon now rampant.
Ryan denied that Kildare have a psychological block against Dublin.
He said: “I don’t see any kind of a scenario where it’s, ‘Oh Jesus, it’s Dublin, we’re in trouble here’. Far from it. They’re a very, very good team. We’d love to be in a position to be playing against them later in the year which would suggest we have progressed. We’d love another go against Dublin.”
It was a strong Dublin performance after defeat to Cork a week earlier. With six points from a possible eight, they head to Derry next weekend and a win there could all but secure a semi-final place.
Paddy Andrews showed no ill effects from a lengthy injury lay-off, scoring 1-2, while Tomás Brady came on and grabbed a point on his return from cruciate trouble.
Gavin said: “To see the work and application that Tomás has put in, similar to Colm O’Neill, makes you delighted for him.
“These guys have got great determination as Gaelic footballers to come back to the sport they obviously love.”
Scorers for Dublin: K McManamon 0-8 (4f); P Andrews 1-2, S Cluxton (1f, 1 45), J Cooper , C O’Sullivan and E O’Gara 0-2 each; B Cullen, Davy Byrne, Darragh Nelson and T Brady 0-1 each.
Subs: Davy Byrne for Kilkenny (4), A Brogan for Reddin (h-t), Darragh Nelson for Fitzsimons (h-t), S Carthy for Cullen (45), D Daly for Cooper (52), T Brady for O’Sullivan (66).
Scorers for Kildare: D Mulhall 1-6 (3f); E O’Flaherty 0-2 (1f); P Cribbin, P Brophy, P Fogarty and M Conway 0-1 each.
Subs: F Conway for McGrillen (30), P O’Neill for White (34), D Hyland for Foley (44, black card), P Fogarty for K Cribbin (51), M Conway for McNally (57), S Campbell for Hyland (69, black card).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, S George, P McMahon; J McCaffrey, J Cooper, J McCarthy; C O’Sullivan, MD Macauley; C Reddin, C Kilkenny, B Cullen; K McManamon, P Andrews, E O’Gara.
KILDARE: S Connolly; M Foley, M O’Grady, H McGrillen; K Cribbin, P Cribbin 0-1, K Murnaghan; T Moolick, G White; S Hurley, E O’Flaherty, C McNally; P Brophy, T O’Connor, D Mulhall.
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