thriller | 

Last-gasp Sean O'Shea free breaks Dublin hearts and sends Kerry into All-Ireland final

Croke Park showdown lives up to its billing
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor celebrates after his side's victory in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kerry manager Jack O'Connor celebrates after his side's victory in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Colm KeysIndependent.ie

The wheel turns full circle. A little less than 11 years ago, Stephen Cluxton delivered that nerveless kick from 40 metres to stun Kerry and win an All-Ireland title for the first time in 16 years.

A huge weight was lifted and the genie was out of the bottle. Jack O'Connor was on the sideline as Kerry manager, nearing the end of his second spell in charge.

It was the beginning of a long and prolonged spell of dominance from Dublin and particularly their head-to-head with Kerry.

How fitting then, with O'Connor back as manager, that Sean O'Shea, from a few metres further out than Cluxton, should land a kick that may well have the same impact on Kerry in the years ahead. Perfect symmetry perhaps.

There is still an All-Ireland final to play and win for but given everything that was on the line, how Kerry had butchered opportunities to kill the game earlier, the 55 metre distance he was out and the wind he was kicking into, that has to be measure up to any pressure kick Croke Park has witnessed.

It gives Kerry a first championship win in seven games over Dublin but how they were made work for it against a side clearly a level below what they have been but still willing to put everything on the line.

From six points down at one stage early in the second half, and a clear sense that the game was getting away from them after David Clifford landed a sixth point, they hung in and flicked the momentum switch when David Moran spilled possession under no pressure on 45 minutes, presenting Dublin with a classic counterattacking opportunity. They duly exploited the chance with Cormac Costello finishing the move by firing low for only the third goal that Kerry have conceded all year.

It was game back on in every sense, 1-10 to 1-8, and it balanced on a knife-edge for much of the remainder.

Ciaran Kilkenny was everywhere for Dublin while James McCarthy gave another towering performance, two giants of the game. And with Paddy Small making an impact off the bench, they were a different team. Kerry hung in though even as their lead was being eroded and produced some big defensive plays.

Further upfield Paudie Clifford pulled all the strings and got better as the game progressed.

Eventually though, Dublin wore them down to draw level on 68 minutes through Kilkenny but there was respite for Kerry in injury time when Sean O'Shea was fouled by Lee Gannon close to goal and converted to lead once more.

But Dublin came again and when Fenton put Paddy Small in he was fouled, giving Dean Rock a chance for parity from which he obliged.

Extra-time beckoned but David Clifford engineered a free and while there may have been a temptation to go short O'Shea was confident enough to stand up to it and produce that moment of magic.

Kerry got a great start, O'Shea cancelling out an early Lee Gannon point after two crisp kick passes from David Moran and Graham O'Sullivan down the right flank put him in.

Moran was involved again in the fourth minute when he bombed a delivery skyward on the wind to test Dublin. The flight beat all the cover but O'Shea was vigilant enough to follow it on the endline and after feigning to go back with a pass, cut inside to throw James McCarthy off his scent and then came back out to finish impressively.

Dublin got a brief foothold and Howard had them within a point by the sixth minute but Tom O'Sullivan got upfield for his customary score and then David Clifford began to cut loose.

After struggling in the Mayo game and being held to a point in the Munster semi-final against Cork, he made up for lost time with five points, three from play (two off his right) and a mark. Mick Fitzsimons tracked him and there was vigilance around him but there was no defending his last point off his right when he shook off Lee Gannon.

John Small had an eventful half, kicking a point off his left to make it 1-4 to 0-5 but then picking up a 21st-minute black card for dragging back O'Shea as Kerry countered swiftly and actually scored through Clifford.

But Small missed little action in his 10 minutes off as Dublin slowed the play for most of it. In the 28th minute they conceded a penalty when David Clifford struck a post and Gavin White was fouled by Lorcan O'Dell in the follow up.

Really it should have been lights out for Dublin as they trailed by four points, 1-7 to 0-6, but an injury to Evan Comerford delayed the penalty for more than three minutes and when O'Shea finally took it he struck it poorly with Comerford able to gather at the second attempt. A second injury to the keeper when O'Shea followed through on the rebound wiped another three minutes off the clock and by then Small was back, making a farce of the time penalty for committing a black card offence.

Kerry led by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break but it never felt like enough with the wind that was to come Dublin’s way in the second half.

O'Shea's late intervention however could be a Cluxtonesque catalyst for this team.

Scorers: Kerry: S O'Shea 1-4 (0-2fs), D Clifford 0-6 (1f 1m), P Clifford 0-2, D Moynihan, T O'Sullivan 0-1 Dublin: C Costello 1-0, C Kilkenny D Rock (3fs) 0-3 each, L Gannon, J Small, S Bugler, J McCarthy, B Fenton, B Howard, P Small all 0-1 each

TEAMS – KERRY – S Ryan; G O'Sullivan, J Foley, T O'Sullivan; B O Beaglaoich, T Morley, G White; D Moran, J Barry; D O'Connor, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; P Clifford, D Clifford, P Geaney. Subs: D Moynihan for O'Brien (41), K Spillane for Geaney (41), A Spillane for Moran (51), P Murphy for G O'Sullivan (61), J O'Connor for White inj (66)

DUBLIN – E Comerford; E Murchan, M Fitzsimons, L Gannon; J McCarthy, J Small, J Cooper; B Fenton, T Lahiff; S Bugler, B Howard, C Kilkenny; C Costello, D Rock, L O'Dell. Subs: P Small for O'Dell (39), D Byrne for Cooper (41), S McMahon for Murchan inj (57), N Scully for Howard (61), C Murphy for Fitzsimons inj (71)

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)


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