Michael Corry reporting live from Croke Park.
A statue, freedom of the city, even a golden cleric! Time to give Stephen Cluxton what he deserves. Let’s start with Footballer of the Year 2019.
The ‘drive for five’ is complete, Dublin have etched their names into GAA folklore and the Parnells man has lifted Sam Maguire for the sixth time. A feat never likely to be matched.
Dublin are champions for the fifth successive year after a six-point win over Kerry in Croke Park.
Just like the drawn match two week’s ago Dublin started like a house on fire with a score after 25 seconds through Con O’Callaghan whose strong running posed problems for Kerry from start to finish.
Paul Mannion was relatively quiet the last day out but the Kilmacud Crokes man hit 0-2 from play in a first half where each member of the Kerry full-back line tried curtailing him.
O’Callaghan was also much-maligned following a subdued performance in the drawn match but the Dublin full-forward was relentless in his running at the Kerry full-back line kicking three beautiful points in the first half.
Kerry struggled early on to match Dublin’s tempo and had just a solitary free from Seán O’Shea to show for their efforts compared to Dublin’s first five points, all of which came from play.
The Kingdom had clearly earmarked the long ball into Dublin’s full-back line as a weak point they could exploit but the sky blues held strong under pressure as Kerry sent in four long balls on top of Cluxton in the first eight minutes, each of which were dealt with by the Dublin defence.
The Munster Champions soon found their groove, ably led by young maestro David Clifford who brought his shooting boots with him this time around kicking three from open play during a stellar first-half performance.
Dingle’s Paul Geaney caused Dublin problems both inside and out the field and kicked some inspirational scores.
It was Dublin though who looked much the better side throughout the first half and this was summed up when David Byrne strolled forward to kick a beauty on 16 minutes to put Dublin four points ahead.
Clifford, Geaney and Adrian Spillane each scored to bring Kerry back into the game but Dublin kept their noses in front thanks to Ciarán Kilkenny who was exceptional during the opening 35 minutes.
Drama ensued on 27 minutes when Clifford put Tadhg Morley through on goals only for him to be pulled down by both O’Callaghan and Mick Fitzsimons. Kerry could have had a goal but they settled for an O’Shea free.
The first half ended with Geaney kicking his third from play as the sides went in deadlocked at 0-10 apiece.
As Jim Gavin’s men emerged for the second half, Diarmuid Connolly made his way on to the field where he replaced Jack McCaffrey, however, his introduction was overshadowed by Eoin Murchan who collected the breaking ball from the throw-in before driving at the heart of the Kerry defence and rattling home the first goal of the match.
It was clearly a planned move by Jim Gavin’s men as each member of the full-forward line pulled towards the Cusack Stand as Murchan collected the ball and made his run.
O’Callaghan followed up the goal with his fourth point but Kerry weren’t going away as points from Geaney and a cracker from O’Shea brought them back to within one.
Kilkenny notched over another score for Dublin who seemed to be threatening a goal with every forward play.
Kerry had their chance to get back on level terms when Stephen O’Brien broke three tackles before bearing down on the Dublin goal. He could have squared it to Geaney but he went for goal himself only for Cluxton to stand tall and make the save.
Dean Rock had a quiet afternoon by all accounts but he stood up when mattered to kick a beautiful score over the shoulder.
Minutes later, it could have been a second goal for Dublin after Shane Ryan saved well from Diarmuid Connolly before O’Callaghan forced a 45 from the rebound.
Eventually, the final nail was put in Kerry’s coffin by Dean Rock who scored Dublin’s first placed kick of the day to ensure that Sam Maguire was staying in the capital for the fifth successive year.
Mannion, Kilkenny and O’Callaghan were all excellent but in a team like Dublin’s where up to ten players could legitimately claim the Footballer of the Year award, after an achievement like this, it is only fitting that their leader picks up the accolade.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton (c); David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper; Jack McCaffrey, Eoin Murchan, John Small; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Niall Scully, Ciarán Kilkenny, Brian Howard; Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock.
Substitutes: Philly McMahon for Eoin Murchan, Cormac Costello for Niall Scully, Cian O’Sullivan for David Byrne, Kevin McManamon for Paul Mannion.
Scorers: Ciarán Kilkenny 0-4, Paul Mannion 0-4, Con O’Callaghan 0-4, Eoin Murchan 1-0 Dean Rock 0-3 (1F), Niall Scully 0-1, David Byrne 0-1, James McCarthy 0-1.
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy (c), Gavin Crowley, Brian Ó Beaglaoich; David Moran, Jack Barry; Diarmuid O’Connor, Seán O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Adrian Spillane.
Substitutes: Jack Sherwood for Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Gavin White for Adrian Spillane, Tommy Walsh for Diarmuid O’Connor, Killian Spillane for Paul Murphy, James O’Donoghue for Jack Barry, Dara Moynihan for Gavin Crowley.
Scorers: David Clifford 0-5, Seán O’Shea 0-5 (3F), Paul Geaney 0-4, Adrian Spillane 0-1.