You win some, you lose some. The aforementioned mantra is applicable to every sports team and person, no matter how impervious they seem. Whether it be Don Bradman’s nigh on 100 Test batting average for Australia or the great recent Spanish National Football team that achieved a World Cup victory – sandwiched between two successful Euro triumphs in succession – great they were, but infallible, they were not. Dublin, after achieving the longest undefeated streak across League and Championship in GAA history, are no different as Sunday’s defeat to arch rivals Kerry proved.
In front of a raucous 53,840 strong crowd at Croke Park, Kerry exercised some of their Dublin demons by defeating the dubs 0-20 to 1-16 to not only defeat Jim Gavin’s Dublin for the first time since March 2015, but also win the Kingdom’s first league title since 2009, whilst simultaneously breaking Dublin’s all conquering undefeated record and shattering their drive for 5 Division 1 titles in succession – something that hadn’t been achieved since Mayo completed their 6 in a row in the 1930’s.
And what a victory it was. Trailing 10-9 in a typically topsy-turvy encounter between the GAA’s most decorated football foes, Kerry went into the break within touching distance of the mighty Dubs. Dublin were, for the most part, the better team throughout the first 35 – though with both counties receiving a black card a piece – Kerry’s Jonathan Lyne and Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly – Dublin would go on to miss the influence of their sharp-shooter dearly in the second half.
From trailing by a point, Kerry shot 6 in succession in a devastating display of power, precision and skill to lead the dubs by 15-10, keeping the off-colour metropolitans scoreless for nearly 20 minutes from the restart, in what proved a pivotal spell.
However, despite showing no signs of their usual attacking panache, Dublin are a resilient bunch as their 36-game unbeaten run indicated, and today was to be no exception.
Following on from a brilliantly tucked away Paul Mannion goal in the 62th minute, Dublin found themselves right back into the game. The teams would go on to trade further scores before, ultimately, a cynical ‘professional’ foul by Kerry’s Anthony Maher with seconds on the clock on Dublin’s Michael Fitzsimons, who had a clear run through the middle of the vacant Kerry defence, left Dean Rock with a 50-metre kick to bring the game to extra time.
Rock’s effort hit the post and, as they say, that was that. Kerry won their 20th title, deservedly so, in a thoroughly absorbing encounter, whilst Dublin tasted something that had become all too rare for them under the exemplary stewardess of Jim Gavin; defeat.
As the dust settles, though, perhaps this defeat will be good for Dublin. Throughout the league, Dublin haven’t been overly dominant. Sure, they were undefeated up until yesterday, but they needed incredible comebacks against Tyrone, Kerry and Monaghan to remain so and in another campaign, Dublin could well have lost all three games.
After the game, Jim Gavin was unhappy with his charges’ performances; “Disappointed with that performance. Too many unforced errors. Gave the ball away too much – certainly had enough of it. The third quarter of the game, we kicked an awful lot of the ball away”.
Kerry head honcho Eamonn Fitzmaurice thought the latest game in this illustrious rivalry was another cracker; “The Kerry-Dublin games over the last couple of years, some of them have been some of the best games that have been played in the last ten years. We’re realistic enough to go away and say ‘That was good. This is something we need to improve on’”.
Looking forward, with no record to protect, perhaps Dublin will push on and dominate as they often so selfishly do. For Kerry, this result will give them much needed confidence. Having beaten Dublin twice in some 13 meetings before the final, victory for Kerry was vital given their disastrous recent record against the Dubs – and achieve victory they did. Dublin are still warm favourites for their quest for a third Sam Maguire in succession come the championship, but Kerry won’t go down easily, that’s for sure.