O’Shea wipes out penalty miss with winning free to send Kerry to All-Ireland Final against Galway

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ALL-IRELAND SFC SEMI-FINAL

erry 1-14

Dublin 1-13

At the final whistle Kerry celebrated like they had just won the All-Ireland final. They hadn’t, but they might as well have. And they might yet, in two weeks against Galway, but for now this felt like they had just unburdened themselves of the heavy weight of a decade of pain and suffering, which they had.

Redemption visits in many forms but for Sean O’Shea it came in the shape of a 55-metre free kick that flew straight and true and over the Hill 16 crossbar in the 76th minute and last second of this helter-skelter semi-final.

See, about an hour early Seanie had a penalty saved by Evan Comerford at the other end of the field, and as the second half moved through its ‘championship minutes’ and on to its denouement it looked like Kerry would perish on that miss. A goal then would have put Kerry seven points ahead in the 28th minute, a lead that even this Dublin team would have found almost impossible to reel in. 

But the five points Dublin trailed by at half time, 1-8 to 0-6, was somewhat more manageable, and for much of the second period Kerry did almost everything they could to hand this game to Dublin on a plate. 

It will matter not a whit to the record books, though it will have to be addressed between here and the final on July 24: from Dara Moynihan’s point in the 43rd minute until Sean O’Shea’s converted free in the 73rd minute – 30 minutes – Kerry scored two points – both from Paudie Clifford who was exemplary for the Kingdom. 

Moynihan’s point had put Kerry 1-10 to 0-7 ahead – the game’s biggest margin on the scoreboard – but within three minutes the lead was down to a point.

Paddy Small clipped a Dublin point straight the Spa man has converted, and then Small’s brother John teed up Cormac Costello who fizzed a low shot across Shane Ryan and into the Davin End goal. 

Ciaran Kilkenny then tidied up another Dublin goal chance with a fisted point and the Big Mo was with the Dubs. Kerry were still ahead but their pulse was being tested now. They were staring down a familiar barrel. 

Diarmuid O’Connor went into Paddy Neilan’s book. Paudie Clifford pointed.

Adrian Spillane was yellow carded. Paudie Clifford pointed.

Dublin were drawing on all that old experience and muscle memory to keep them in it. James McCarthy and Kilkenny were beyond immense for them in the second half, and a point from each in the 62nd and 63rd minutes made it a one-point game again.

Kerry, meanwhile, couldn’t do right for doing wrong. Tadhg Morley was pulled for over-carrying. Gavin White jarred a leg and departed injured. Diarmuid O’Connor lobbed an effort at a point into Comerford’s hands.

Another Kerry turnover led to Kilkenny kicking an equaliser, 1-12 apiece, and it started to look like déja vu all over again for Kerry.

On the game tumbled into five minutes of additional time, halfway through which O’Shea was fouled and converted from 15 metres. Kerry ahead and reaching for the tape.

A minute later Paddy Small won a brilliant mark at what would have been a difficult enough spot for him to convert from, but some Kerry player had too much to say and Neilan brought the ball in for a simple tap over free for Dean Rock. All square again.

Kerry backed themselves for one last attack, David Clifford won a free 55 metres out and the chance for redemption fell to O’Shea. If the Kenmare had a knot in his stomach it didn’t show. He placed the ball, licked his fingers and drove Kerry into their first All-Ireland Final in three years with all the conviction of a man who has been nailing those frees for years.

Penalty miss? What penalty miss?

It had taken Dublin 77 seconds to kick the game’s first score, from corner back Lee Gannon, but it took less that four minutes for O’Shea to kick the game’s first goal. 

The Kenmare man had already evened the score up in the second minute but then in the fourth minute he got on to the end of David Moran’s long punt, cut inside his marker and fired low past Comerford to send the Kerry portion of the 73,602 attendance into raptures.

Rock converted a free, McCarthy drew a save from Shane Ryan, Howard kicked a point. 

The game was like a Lucky Bag by now, one never knew what was coming out next. David Clifford fired over a free, Tom O’Sullivan came up for his customary point, Howard kicked wide.

Defensively Kerry were set very well – Morley the glue keeping all his defenders, and Jack Barry and Moran, compact and disciplined and impenetrable. Dublin moved the ball around, going from side to side, but with little to no penetration. As the half wore on the absence of Con O’Callaghan as a focal point of the Dublin attack became more and more pronounced.

In the 21st minute John Small tangled with Paul Geaney and got 10 minutes in the sin-bin for his troubles. 

Rock and O’Shea traded points before David Clifford’s effort dropped down off the post into White’s hands, who was then capsized by a combination of Comerford and Lorcan O’Dell. Penalty.

O’Shea had about three minutes to wait as the Dublin ’keeper got treatment, before picking himself up to stop a poorly struck penalty, which meant Kerry went to the interval five up when they might have been eight ahead and out of sight.

If nothing else it made a game of it for the second half, Dublin’s old war horses dragging their team back into the contest.

Extra-time and God knows what seemed inevitable, but then David Clifford and O’Shea combined to conjure the wining free, exorcise the ghosts of the the past decade and win a game that would have crushed a Kingdom had they lost it.

It’s said Kerry don’t wins the classics. We’re not sure if this game will enter the pantheon of the game’s greatest but Kerry won’t mind that. They won a game they absolutely needed to and they celebrated accordingly.

The final will take care of itself in due course.

KERRY: Shane Ryan, Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan 0-1, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, David Moran, Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Barry, Seán O’Shea 1-4 (0-2f), Stephen O’Brien, Paudie Clifford 0-2, David Clifford 0-6 (1f, 1m), Paul Geaney.

Subs: Dara Moynihan 0-1 for S O’Brien (42), K Spillane for P Geaney (42); Adrian Spillane for D Moran (51); Paul Murphy for G O’Sullivan (62), Joe O’Connor for G White (inj 66).

DUBLIN: Evan Comerford, Eoin Murchan, Michael Fitzsimons, Lee Gannon 0-1, John Small 0-1, Jonny Cooper, Seán Bugler 0-1, Brian Fenton 0-1, Tom Lahiff, James McCarthy 0-1, Brian Howard 0-1, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-3, Cormac Costello 1-0, Dean Rock 0-3 (3f), Lorcan O’Dell.

Subs: Paddy Small 0-1 for L O’Dell (40), David Byrne for J Cooper (42), Sean McMahon for E Murchan (inj 57); Niall Scully for B. Howard (61), Cian Murphy for M. Fitzsimons (70+2);

REFEREE: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)

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