Anthony Maher grabbed a hold of Michael Fitzsimons and pulled him to the ground. With this simple action Maher both guaranteed Kerry’s victory and proved the pointlessness of the black card.
Maher’s actions were undeniably cynical, exactly the sort of behaviour the black card was brought in to prevent. Yet aside from having to leave the pitch for the final seconds of the final, there was no consequences for his cynicism.
He will go on to do something similar again, and why not? The vast majority of players would have committed the exact same foul in Maher’s position knowing that there was nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In truth, however, Dublin’s record winning streak was not ended because of a cynical foul. In actual fact Dublin have been relying on dramatic comebacks all year and their luck finally ran out on Sunday.
The opening thirty five minutes were played at a thrilling pace. Each team knocked over some exemplary scores, though Kerry were far less wasteful in taking their chances.
Though Dublin briefly managed to pull three points ahead, Kerry never looked out of the match. The first half ended with Dublin leading by 0-10 to 0-9.
One wonders if the second half would have gone differently if Diarmuid Connolly had not contrived to get himself a black card for an off the ball incident.
Regardless, the second half was a startlingly different match to the first. Dublin, having seemingly forgotten the difference between being patient and being slow, looked lethargic until the final ten minutes.
Kerry did not waste the opportunity. Trailing by a point at the outset, the Kingdom scored six points without reply to establish a commanding lead.
It was almost twenty minutes in before Dublin finally registered a score in the second half. Points were traded resulting in Kerry leading by four on the 58th minute.
The game might have ended then had Philly McMahon not pulled of a spectacular block to deny Kevin McCarthy tapping the ball home from a rebounded save.
The chance came just minutes after Cian O’Sullivan had left the field. Without their sweeper Dublin looked increasingly in danger of conceding a goal.
Yet it was the Dubs who scored one, Paul Mannion guiding a shot past a diving Kerry goalkeeper and defender, despite miss-hitting the ball. There was just a point between the teams again.
Kerry composure began to tell as the game headed towards injury time. They soon established a three point lead, thanks in no small part to some glaring misses by Dublin.
Dean Rock and Paul Mannion, the latter being Dublin’s stand-out forward, scored three between them in the closing minutes, but a point from Sheehan deep into injury time ultimately clinched the game.
Rock almost levelled from outside the forty-five with the free resulting from Maher’s cynical foul. The ball struck the post and the game was over.
Dublin have no one to blame but themselves. Only playing to their potential in the final ten minutes is simply not good enough to guarantee trophies.
Kerry were deserving winners on the day, easily the more consistent of the two teams. They will enter championship bolstered by having beaten Dublin for the first time in years.
David Moran in particular was outstanding, dominating the centre of the pitch. If there was a Dublin plan to stop him dictating play then it certainly failed.
Yet a game that ended 0-20 to 1-16 is far too close to dramatically reassess either teams. What is difficult to imagine, however, is any other county winning the All-Ireland this year other than one of these two.
Kerry Scorers: Paul Geaney 0-8 (0-5f), David Moran 0-3 (0-1f), Michael Geaney and Donnchadh Walsh 0-2, Kevin McCarthy, Jack Savage, Jack Barry and Bryan Sheehan 0-1.
Dublin Scorers: Dean Rock 0-6 (0-4f), Paul Mannion 1-2, Ciaran Kilkenny and Ciaran Reddin 0-2, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly 0-1.