FL1: Kerry draw sees Dubs extend unbeaten streak

18 March 2017

Kerry's Stephen O'Brien and Cian O'Sullivan of Dublin
©INPHO

Dublin preserved their unbeaten record as injury-time points from Dean Rock and Paul Mannion earned them a 0-13 apiece draw with Kerry in front of a full house at Tralee.

The Kingdom looked to have done enough to stop the All-Ireland champions and league holders from equalling their 84-year, 34-game unbeaten run in both competitions but Rock registered a late free before the hosts coughed up possession in defence in the 74th minute and allowed substitute Mannion to snatch a share of the spoils for Jim Gavin’s invincibles at the end of a nasty, niggly game which saw 13 yellow cards dished out including two for the very unfortunate playmaker Ciaran Kilkenny, who was sent off in stoppage time but is surely more sinned against than sinner.

It was five points apiece at the end of a low-quality, bad-tempered first half where there were almost as many yellow cards as scores. Totally out of sorts, the Dubs needed four Rock points from placed balls to stay in touch, while the hosts passed up on two good goal-scoring chances.

Kerry carved out the first scoring opportunity of note but Paul Murphy failed to hit the target at the town end in a one-on-one with visiting goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. Peter Crowley took a pass from David Moran to open the scoring in the ninth minute and the excellent Paul Geaney doubled the difference as the home side bossed the early exchanges.

With the wind at his back, Rock opened Dublin’s account from a long-range free in the eleventh minute but Geaney replied from a free at the other end 13 minutes later as scores remained few and far between. Conor McHugh reduced the arrears again in the 25th minute – the visitors’ first score from play! – but goalkeeper Brendan Kealy responded with a sweetly-struck Kerry ‘45’ into the wind seven minutes from the break.

Rock smashed over a terrific Dublin ‘45’ and drew the sides level from a free in the 33rd minute following a foul on Paddy Andrews, who was a late addition to the Dublin starting XV. Rock’s third successive point edged the holders ahead but Geaney’s shot was diverted over the bar by Cluxton to leave the sides level at the break.

Tempers became frayed as the teams left the field, with Kerry particularly unhappy that Eric Lowndes has escaped sanction for a late tackle on Adrian Spillane.

The Kingdom would supply the first four points of the second half; then Dublin replied with six in a row up to the hour; Kerry notched four more in succession; the Dubs the last two of an engrossing contest.

A Geaney free had the Munster champions back in front when the action resumed and there were three between the teams when Geaney and Moran hammered over terrific points within seconds of each other. Kevin McCarthy increased the gap after great work from substitute Stephen O’Brien but the Dubs rallied in turn with a brace of Rock frees and a sumptuous McHugh strike off the outside of his left boot. It could have been worse for the hosts had not McHugh, Fenton and sub Eoghan O’Gara all been denied goals by last-ditch defending.

O’Gara tied the scores up in the 55th minute and Rock (free) fired the winners’ fifth unanswered point. Rock added to his tally from a soft free before a Geaney free brought an end to the visitors’ six-point scoring streak. Another precise Geaney free made it 0-11 each with seven minutes left to set up a grandstand finale…

Barry John Keane restored Kerry’s lead with five minutes remaining and Donnchadh Walsh doubled the gap on the stroke of 70 minutes. How Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s charges failed to win from there is anyone’s guess but Dublin’s never-say-die spirit combined with Kerry’s lack of killer instinct saw the match end all-square – enough to see a Dublin team that refuses to accept defeat move back to the top of the Division One table (above Donegal and Tyrone on score difference) despite having won just two of their five outings to date.

Kerry - B Kealy (0-1'45); S Enright, M Griffin, R Shanahan; P Crowley (0-1), T Morley, K Young; D Moran (0-1), J Barry; A Spillane, P Murphy, D Walsh (0-1); K McCarthy (0-1), P Geaney (0-7, 4f), J Savage. Subs: J Lyne for S Enright, S O'Brien for J Savage, B J Keane (0-1) for A Spillane, A Maher for J Barry, D O’Sullivan for K McCarthy, M Geaney for K Young.

Dublin - S Cluxton; P McMahon, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; D Daly, J Small, E Lowndes; B Fenton, M D Macauley; N Scully, D Rock (0-9f), S Carthy; C Kilkenny, P Andrews, C McHugh (0-2). Subs: C O'Sullivan for D Byrne, P Flynn for N Scully, K McManamon for M D Macauley, E O’Gara (0-1) for P Andrews, P Mannion (0-1) for J Small, B Brogan for C McHugh.

Referee - S Hurson.