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Thriller in Thurles as late David Clifford penalty rescues draw for the Kingdom

By Tom McLoughlin

DUBLIN​​ 4-09

KERRY​ ​1-18

Image via RTE

Kerry will certainly take this outcome. At the start of the second half, Dublin retained possession for a full four minutes before Cormac Costello slotted over a point to give the All Ireland champions a seven point lead. Kerry’s first touch of the second half was a 39th minute Kieran Fitzgibbon kick-out and the game looked like there was only going to be one conclusion. After all, Dublin don’t cough up big leads. However, Kerry reacted magnificently and were well worthy of their late equaliser in the 74th minute when David Clifford coolly rolled the ball down the centre of Evan Comerford’s goal to bring his tally for the day to 1-6 and a full-time score in Thurles of 4-09 for Dublin to Kerry’s 1-18.

This game took a while to hit full throttle with the first quarter particularly error strewn; Kerry and Dublin both notching up 5 wides apiece in the first twelve minutes. The game’s opening score came from Sean O’Shea with the Kenmare man kicking a wonderful point after a nice catch and pass from Paul Geaney. Dublin responded through a point from Ciarán Kilkenny whose strength and movement caused problems for the Kerry defence in the first half.

Kerry were the better team in the early stages and led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 14 minutes. Late midfield replacement Diarmuid O’Connor raced through and fisted over for a point, while Dara Moynihan and David Clifford both scored from play. Indeed, a feature of this game was the number of points from open play with 27 of the 32 scores in this game coming from play. Dublin equalised in the 16th minute through their most dangerous forward on the day Con O’Callaghan. Having hit the post in the early minutes, he made no mistake when a defence splitting fist pass from Kilkenny put O’Callaghan in space, free from Tadhg Morley, along the end-line for him to cut in, round the Kerry goalkeeper and fire home.

Kerry reacted well and would score the next two points through Paudie Clifford, and Diarmuid O’Connor who kicked his second point of the day with a wonderful left footed effort just in from the right hand touchline after some patient play from Sean O’Shea. This score would see Kerry lead at the first water break on a score of 0-6 to 1-1.

Dublin clearly used this break in play to their advantage and thundered into this clash to take the lead with Cormac Costello netting in the 21st minute in a goal very similar to the first. Again, Kilkenny was instrumental with another fisted pass too easily opening up the Kerry defence for Paddy Small to latch onto. Small found Costello and the Whitehall Colmcille’s man blasted the ball home with his left.

The whole Dublin full forward line were causing problems and Paddy Small curled over a point from distance with his trusted left foot. Costello, after some poor early wides, was now in full flow and scored the best point of the first half when cutting in from the right wing, leaving Paul Murphy in his wake to score a beautiful point from 40 metres. From the resulting misplaced Kerry kick-out, Brian Fenton ran forward and pointed and in the space of just eight minutes Dublin now led 2-4 to 0-6, turning a two point deficit into a four point lead.

At this stage, Kerry needed someone to step up and after a quiet start, David Clifford becamre more prominent and scored two points in a row, the second a right footed effort after some uncharacteristically loose marking from Michael Fitzsimons who had kept the Fossa phenomenon relatively quiet prior to this. Paddy Small responded with his second point, blasting over, when potentially a goal was on.

Aside from Clifford, Dara Moynihan was arguably Kerry’s most lively forward and in the 34th minute he evaded the Dublin defence to fire the ball past Comerford at his near post. Unfortunately for the reigning League champions, referee Seán Hurson had already blown his whistle for a free for Kerry and for some reason known only to him, did not allow the advantage. Kerry were apoplectic but O’Shea would have to make do with tapping the ball over to make it 2-05 to 0-9.

The accurate and elusive Paddy Small scored his third off the day just before half time and it looked like Dublin would take a three point lead to the dressing room. However, there was still time for another goal. Niall Scully, who worked tirelessly throughout and had an excellent game for the Dubs, launched a speculative high ball into the full forward line where O’Callaghan outmuscled Paul Murphy to latch onto the ball, rounding Fitzgibbon and rolled the ball into an empty net. Murphy claimed he was pushed but he should have been stronger and Dublin led 3-06 to 0-9 at half-time. Worrying for Kerry, Dublin despite not being at their best, could have had six goals in the half and Peter Keane had plenty of causes for concern going in at the interval.

As mentioned, Dublin scored the first point of the second half through Costello to lead by seven after a remarkable spell of patience in possession. However, perhaps this irked Kerry in some way as the third quarter saw Kerry have their best spell of the game and would outscore Dublin by 0-6 to 0-2 during this period, with David Clifford almost singlehandedly putting the game on his shoulders.

This bout of Kerry scoring was initiated by Geaney, who, after some good work from Moynihan, scored a tidy left footed point in the 44th minute before immediately being called ashore by his manager. Moynihan would immediately turn from provider to finisher after some good hold up play from half-time substitute Tommy Walsh. Kerry were inching their way through Dublin’s lead and would soon roar back into this tie when David Clifford scored three glorious points in four minutes all from play. The Munster men were now pressing high and attacking Comerford’s kickout at every opportunity and achieving success. Costello steadied the ship for Dublin with a fisted point in the 50th minute, which was only their second point of the half and their first in eleven minutes. Kerry responded through a fisted point themselves from Paul Murphy just before the water break and the men from the capital now led by just by 3-08 to 0-15 points going into the final quarter.

Kerry emerged from the water break looking the hungrier side bagging the next two points of this enthralling encounter through O’Shea and a second from Murphy in the 56th minute, who seemed determined to make up for his first half error. The scores were now level and Kerry seemed to have all the momentum. However, Dublin reacted like true champions and were awarded a penalty in the 61st minute when Diarmuid O’Connor was adjudged to have tackled Paddy Small high after the Kerry defence failed to deal with a speculative shot that dropped short. Costello, who hit the net with just one of his three penalties against Roscommon last weekend, made no mistake and rifled his shot high down the middle. This looked to be the winning score for Dublin as they now led 4-08 to 0-17.

O’Shea responded with a free to cut the deficit to just two after the lively Stephen O’Brien, introduced as a substitute, was fouled by Davy Byrne. At this stage Dublin began to do what they normally do in the closing stages and kept the ball for two or three minutes at a time. Their experience was coming to the fore and were happy to just keep possession as Kerry struggled to turn the ball over. A fisted point from O’Callaghan in the third minute of stoppage restored Dublin’s three point lead and Kerry now knew only a goal would do to prevent the Dubs leaving Thurles with all two league points. An uncharacteristically ill-advised attempt and poor wide from O’Callaghan gave Kerry a chance of winning the resulting kickout. They duly did and were attacking the Dublin goal when O’Brien was played in and tackled high by McMahon. The referee awarded a penalty and Clifford made no mistake from the spot to leave the score 4-09 to 1-18 and give both sides a share of the spoils in an epic encounter in Semple Stadium.

Next up for Kerry in Round Three of the league is trip to Roscommon who already know they are in a relegation playoff. As for Dublin, they face a trip to Galway where the winner will make it through to a league semi-final.

Scorers – Kerry: David Clifford 1-6 (1 penalty, 1 free), Sean O’Shea 0-4 (2 frees), Diarmuid O’Connor 0-2, Dara Moynihan 0-2, Paul Murphy 0-2, Paudie Clifford 0-1, Paul Geaney 0-1, Dublin: Cormac Costello 2-3 (1 penalty), Con O’Callaghan 2-1, Paddy Small 0-3, Ciarán Kilkenny 0-1, Brian Fenton 0-1

Dublin: Evan Comerford; Eoin Murchan, David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons; James McCarthy, John Small, Robert McDaid; Brian Fenton, Tom Lahiff; Niall Scully, Ciarán Killenny, Seán MacMahon; Paddy Small, Con O’Callaghan, Cormac Costello. Subs: Colm Basquel for Lahiff (47) Dara Mullin for P Small (55), Eric Lowndes for McDaid (55),Philip McMahon for J Small (59), Jonny Cooper for MacMahon (66), Seán Bugler for Kilkenny (66), Brian Howard for Scully (70).

Kerry: Kieran Fitzgibbon; Brian O’Beaglaoich, Tadhg Morley, Jason Foley; Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, Gavin White; David Moran, Diarmuid O’Connor; Dara Moynihan, Sean O’Shea, Paul Geaney; David Clifford, Killian Spillane, Paudie Clifford. Subs: Tommy Walsh for K Spillane (HT), Ronan Buckley for Moran (45), Adrian Spillane for Geaney(45), Stephen O’Brien for P Clifford (50), Graham O’Sullivanfor O’Beaglaoich (57), Jack Sherwood for Gavin White (57), Micheál Burns for Moynihan (62).

Venue: Semple Stadium, Thurles

Man of the Match: David Clifford (Kerry)

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)

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