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Kerry put an end to Dub’s winning habit

The sun finally shone onto the Cusack Stand and Dublin’s 36-game unbeaten march finally ended on Sunday evening as Kerry earned their 20th National League crown.

The game adopted a frantic pace from the off and it was Dublin who opened the scoring, Paul Flynn curling over from the right wing after three minutes.

Jack Savage, an eleventh-hour replacement for Stephen O’Brien, replied a minute later to level matters.

Dublin was perhaps marginally better in the opening exchanges; here was a game where both sides went out to play razor-sharp, direct football.

The two teams were at each other’s throats and but for profligacy in front of goal Jim Gavin’s men might have garnered a bigger lead after the opening twenty minutes of play.

Ciaran Reddin and Ciaran Kilkenny pointed in quick succession and Dublin found themselves 0-07 0-04 in front, however, this might’ve been more but for a couple of efforts which dropped into Brendan Kealy’s hands.

The first half saw two black cards; Jonathan Lyne was punished for a cynical pull down on Diarmuid Connolly and Connolly lasted a mere three minutes more on the field before hauling down Lyne’s replacement off the ball.

Kerry finished the first half stronger but trailed by a point after Kilkenny whipped another score over close to the interval.

Paul Geaney’s tally of eight points might have stretched further had he pointed his first free kick of the second half – nonetheless he followed up on the miss with accurate frees in the 44th and 45th minutes of the game.

Kerry put the foot down and it took 19 minutes of second half play before Dublin registered a score – a point from the boot of Paul Mannion, who had been introduced for the second half.

Dean Rock converted on two occasions but Kerry held onto their lead through points from the Geaney brothers, Michael and Paul.

Approaching the final 10 minutes, Kerry maintained a lead, but Mannion wasn’t finished.

A swift Dublin attack towards the Hill saw the ball fall into Mannion’s grasp and after rounding the cover he scrambled the ball home to make it a one-point game.

Geaney added another to his haul to stretch the lead out to two points again, and the hugely impressive David Moran kicked a gargantuan point with two Dublin defenders in hot pursuit to give Kerry what appeared to be their insurance score.

Dean Rock had the chance to kick Dublin into extra-time, but his free kick hit the upright and trickled into Kerry’s hands – and with that, the winning streak was relinquished.

Dublin manager Jim Gavin was gracious in defeat and thought Kerry were full value for their win.

Speaking to The Liberty after the final whistle, the Dublin manager said:

“Kerry’s score execution was very good and they fully deserved their win so hats off to them,”

Gavin also denied that his team’s unbeaten run was a tightening noose around them:

“Obviously, it’s been talked about outside but it hasn’t been referenced at all from us.”

Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice was pleased to have won the League crown, despite naming it ‘third in our list of priorities’.

Fitzmaurice said that while this win was a big boost for his charges, it was far from a leap over a psychological hurdle – as he feels such a hurdle doesn’t exist when it comes to beating Dublin:

“There’s no psychological damage there… We’ve come up short [against Dublin] before but we’ve come up short going at them.”

They say the League is but a dress rehearsal for the Championship, and Fitzmaurice himself summed up that idea in his post-match conversation:

“If Dublin had beaten us today it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the fact that we’ve won it is a positive of course.”

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