Forward talent on show of Leinster rivals will stir up Croker – Johnny McNally

Thrilling Leinster showdown in store like historic Delaney Cup win 20 years ago, as Ballinteer legend remembers breakthrough win against Kildare

Rónán Mac Lochlainn

Twenty years ago, Dublin and Kildare locked horns in the Leinster Senior Football Championship final with the Dubs ending a barren run of seven years without a provincial title as they claimed the Delaney Cup with a 2-13 to 2-11 win.

Over 78,000 were in attendance on that gloriously sunny afternoon in July as second-half goals from Alan Brogan and Ray Cosgrove proved pivotal for Tommy Lyons’ team, under the captaincy of Coman Goggins from Ballinteer St John’s.

Goggins had his club mate Johnny McNally for company on that afternoon with the versatile attacker chipping in with three valuable points, two whistling home from play, with McNally’s memories of that special day remaining as fresh and as lucid as ever.

“It was just a great day for everyone involved with the team and it meant an awful lot to both the players and the supporters.

“I hadn’t been involved with the panel for too long compared to some of the other fellas so it was brilliant to see how happy they were in particular after the game.

“They had been through some very tough times and had experienced a fair amount of disappointment over the previous years so winning a match like that meant the world to them.

“I remember Darren Homan was so happy afterwards that he was in tears and that’s how important winning a Leinster title was back then, especially when you consider they hadn’t won one since 1995.

“The celebrations were amazing afterwards, from climbing the fence down at Hill16 immediately after the match to walking around town with a few of the lads and taking in the atmosphere.

“We bumped into a fair few friends and club mates from Ballinteer that night before we met back as a group in Jury’s and it was great to see everyone in great form and how happy they were for us.

“It was a special day and I was very lucky to be part of it,” he added.

Indeed, McNally had only just been added to the panel earlier in the year as he featured in the O’Byrne Cup and National League before getting the nod for his championship bow in Dublin’s semi-final win over Meath.

He did enough to merit his place in the final and that decision was vindicated with a strong showing against the Lilies, with McNally keen to acknowledge the influence that Goggins had in helping him settle into intercounty football.

“Coman helped me an awful lot and having him and the late Tom Mulligan involved with the panel made life far easier for me when I first got called up.

“It was great for the club to have the three of us involved with Dublin as there weren’t too many before that and Coman being captain made that even more special.

“Tommy Lyons brought in a fair few lads through trials after Tommy Carr had left so there were quite a few newcomers to the panel and some of them made a serious impact in the final.

“Alan (Brogan) and Ray (Cosgrove) scored goals against Kildare and they went on to have brilliant years.

“It was such a hot day and quite nerve-wracking beforehand but the trip on the bus down from Parnell Park was a memorable one as we passed so many supporters outside places like Gaffney’s and Meagher’s taking in the pre-match atmosphere and cheering us on.

“It felt like an eternity before the game and that’s the worst part but once I got on the field and the game started, the nerves disappeared and I got an early score which settled me a bit.

“I recall Dermot Earley being brilliant for Kildare but we hung in there and it was such a great feeling to get over the line at the end,” added McNally.

It’s unlikely we’ll be treated to a similar atmosphere next Saturday, in terms of attendance anyway, but McNally feels that the attacking strengths of both teams could lead to an enjoyable and expansive decider.

Neither team have looked rock solid in defending their own goal with Kildare caught for two goals against Westmeath while Dublin could well have conceded a similar tally in their semi-final win over Meath, despite their complete dominance on the day.

“Looking at both teams and how they’ve played this year, there is some serious forward talent in both Dublin and Kildare.

“Ben McCormack has looked very sharp at centre-forward for Kildare and we all know how good Daniel Flynn can be, in terms of scoring but also laying on chances for Jimmy Hyland.

“They showed a few weaknesses at the back against Westmeath however and that’s an area that Dublin will look to exploit.

“Con O’Callaghan has been really sharp since his return to the team and is showing how important he is with his ability to win possession close to goal and the forward line just looks so much better with him on the edge of the square.

“Ciarán Kilkenny also looks refreshed after the league and Dublin seem to have options up front now that weren’t quite there during the league campaign.

“The likes of Niall Scully and Paddy Small came in as substitutes the last day against Meath and they are very good options for Dessie Farrell to introduce.

“In general, the forwards seem to be clicking very well at the minute and the movement has improved an awful lot from earlier in the year.

“Looking at both teams, I think you would have to favour Dublin next Saturday as I just think they will have too much forward power for Kildare to deal with.

“It should be a good test though as Kildare won’t fear Dublin at all and I’m just looking forward to both teams going out and playing to their strengths in what should be a very entertaining game to watch,” added McNally.

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