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Dublin stars soar to conquer Kerry

By Declan Bogue

Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11: A game from the Gods erupted as Dublin made it to their second All-Ireland final in three years, with a late blast of two goals from Kevin McManamon and Eoghan O'Gara.

Fitting, in the weekend of Seamus Heaney's wake, that it should be the most enduring rivalry in Gaelic football – a sport that Heaney played in his youth for Castledawson – that should punctuate the weekend.

From the start it was full-blooded. Jack McCaffrey made a customary dash up the wing to leave space inside for Michael Darragh Macauley to sprint into and just as he caught the whites of Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy's eyes he whistled a shot over.

Declan O'Sullivan responded in kind and from that point the game became one of those wonderful expressions of courage, two heavyweights enjoying pouring on the pain with scoring combinations, before the other would rear up and lurch forward.

With both teams honouring a gentleman's agreement to go toe-to-toe, the guards slipped easily.

Colm Cooper fastened onto a freekick he earned from a Ger Brennan foul. Tomas OSe had bounded forward and he worked it to Donnachadh Walsh who flashed it into the arms of James O'Donoghue who delivered the first goal and subsequent crowd eruption.

O'Donoghue was in serious form and skinned his marker Kevin O'Brien to land a point – again from a quick free earned and played by Cooper, who then conducted another play, threading through to Walsh who prodded the ball underneath Stephen Cluxton to leave the score 2-2 to 0-3 with barely 12 minutes on the clock.

Less than 60 seconds later Diarmuid Connolly's shot fell short but the sprite-like Paul Mannion flicked to the net.

Cluxton and Bernard Brogan tagged on frees to add to Brogan's point from play to wrestle back the lead.

Dubs manager Jim Gavin sent on Philly McMahon to curb O'Donoghue but Cooper strolled through to stroke one over.

The resultant kickout to Johnny Cooper was too short and referee Cormac Reilly threw the ball up.

From the break O'Donoghue's shot hit the post and Walsh was set through only for Cluxton to haul him to the ground and concede a penalty.

O'Donoghue stepped up to thump it to the left, sending Cluxton the wrong way.

Dublin got their jab going again and were fortunate when a McMahon shot bounced over the crossbar.

At half-time, Cian O'Sullivan dropped deeper to pick up Cooper as Gavin began trouble-shooting.

It was a game for men and gradually Paul Mannion and Ciaran Kilkenny were replaced by more hardened veterans.

A brace of Paul Galvin points pushed the Kerry lead to four points, but with Johnny Cooper switching onto Cooper the Dubs hit five consecutive points, boosted by the energy of substitute Dean Rock and the accuracy of Brogan.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice sent for Kieran Donaghy and David Moran came on to win a kickout that temporarily staunched the flow of Kerry kickouts into Dublin hands.

A high ball sent in broke for Cooper who was about to chip lift it into his hands when a despairing Johnny Cooper swung a boot and kicked the Kerry attacker's ankle.

Already on a yellow card, the Dublin defender can count himself fortunate to have stayed on the field.

Points from O'Donoghue and Darran O'Sullivan put Kerry in the lead with 10 minutes to go while Dublin primed Kerry's chief tormentor from the 2011 final, Kevin McManamon.

He scuffed one wide on being introduced.

However, Connolly converted a tricky-looking free into the Hill to leave it level.

Declan O'Sullivan missed a chance that he would normally snap up, and from that kickout Cluxton belted it down the middle.

It broke between Marc OSe, David Moran and Macauley, with the latter stretching full-length to scoop it into the path of McManamon, already driving towards the Kerry goal.

His shot may indeed have been an attempt at goal, but it didn't resemble one as it looped into the top corner.

Regulation time was up at this stage and Kerry became desperate, flinging everything to Donaghy, who was securely in the back pocket of Rory O'Carroll.

A late Dubs raid ended with Eoghan O'Gara's vicious shot hitting the crossbar, bouncing over the line and coming back out before Rock left no doubt.

By then the Hill was in full voice.

There wasn't even time for the kickout to be taken before the strains of 'Molly Malone' reverberated through Croke Park.

Roll on September 22nd.

Belfast Telegraph

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