Dublin and Kerry must meet again after playing out a draw in an epic All-Ireland final last weekend.
It was a breathtaking encounter bringing back tension filled memories of the 2016 draw between Mayo and Dublin. It was edge of the seat stuff right until the bitter end - even for the neutrals, I can only imagine what it was like for the partisan supporters.
The contest even had a 2017 final comparison as Dean Rock had a last kick of the game free to snatch it for the Dubs. Lee Keegan and his GPS even got a mention on our Radio One commentary. This time however, the ever-reliant Rock kicked it wide, although the angle was much more difficult than the chance he took in the 2017 final. Overall the 1-16 to 1-16 scoreline was a fair result as neither team deserved to lose.
There were so many big moments, controversial or otherwise and sometimes it was hard to keep up. The first half dismissal of Johnny Cooper seemed to create the biggest debate, but for me it was black and white. Cooper was being terrorised by David Clifford and on every occasion he fouled the Kerry starlet and his two bookable offences were certainly merited and he deserved to go.
What a game! The GAA Football All-Ireland Championship Final ended in a draw yesterday at @CrokePark@DubGAAOfficial 1-16 @Kerry_Official 1-16Watch the full-time highlights on #GAANOW here and on https://t.co/qppiV2fH3J pic.twitter.com/E2Dhq3u7Oo— The GAA (@officialgaa ) September 2, 2019
Jim Gavin seems to be taking a bit of flak for being slow to react and not moving Cooper off Clifford. Had the Fossa forward his shooting boots with him, Kerry could have won this game comfortably, but their three first half points from play from 11 attempts had them going in at the break trailing by 1-09 to 0-08, despite dominating for long periods.
Kerry missed a couple of gilt-edged goal chances in the opening period but credit to Dublin stopper, Stephen Cluxton, for brilliantly saving a Paul Geaney penalty with a strong left hand when he was going the wrong way. I know rules are rules and there is a lot of debate that the penalty should have been re-taken because Cluxton left his line to stop the shot, but when have you ever seen a keeper pulled for such an infringement? The All-Ireland final is not the place to implement it for the first time. The Dubs would have been up in arms if it was re-taken and frankly, I wouldn't have blamed them. The magnitude of the occasion highlighted the situation a bit more but I can guarantee you, if you were to look back at all the penalties in 2019 - or even before, not many keepers stay on their line.
The match-ups throughout the game were fascinating, to say the least. Tom O'Sullivan, the Kerry corner back who hadn't conceded a point from play to a direct opponent in this year's championship, was given the unenviable task of shackling Con O'Callaghan. Overall he did a splendid job, only conceding a single point to the Cuala sharpshooter. After a sticky start, Tadhg Morley got to grips with Paul Mannion, while Jason Foley and Dean Rock had a right old ding-dong battle. Worryingly for Dublin, Brian Fenton and Michael Dara MacAuley got wiped at midfield by David Moran, Jack Barry and Adrian Spillane.
Lots of pre-match talk was that Barry had always curbed the threat of Fenton and he impressively did it again while David Moran lorded the skies in Croke Park. If there was a transfer market in GAA and Peter Keane was allowed to take a player from another county before the replay, that player would surely be Paddy Durcan. Jack McCaffrey tormented Gavin White who was brought into the team to nullify McCaffrey's threat as Durcan did so brilliantly in the semi final.
McCaffrey took White for 1-03 in a man-of-the-match display. McCaffrey only got the ball five times in the semi-final against Durcan and didn't threaten the scoreboard once. That's how impressive Durcan was. The big question for Kerry is - have they missed the boat or are they now confident they can beat this so called unbeatable team? Kerry's substitutes had a huge influence on the game, most notably Tommy Walsh and Killian Spillane, who wreaked havoc when they were introduced.
Centre forward Seanie O'Shea came of age scoring 10 points in his first All-Ireland final. Three 45's, four frees and three from play is some going for such a young player. It's a serious weapon to have to know your place-kicker will nail you almost all of his placed balls. Dean Rock was the same for Dublin, taking his tally to double digits and scoring 10 points himself. Rock has taken his 2019 tally now to 1-36 in five championship games and when you factor in that in two of those, he only came off the bench in the second half, that is some going.
The concern for Kerry is that they played the entire second half with a numerical advantage and still couldn't put away the Dubs. Coughing up possession three times in injury time against 14 men is something that will worry Peter Keane, but there was a frantic end and players can be forgiven. You have to give credit to Dublin for chasing Kerry down to get that invaluable equaliser when their five in a row dream looked all but dead. I'm glad Rock missed the last chance, I'd have preferred however if he missed the kick in 2017 instead.