By Matt Gault
Dublin edged rivals Kerry to reclaim the All-Ireland Football title with a 1-15 to 1-13 victory in a captivating final at Croke Park.
Despite a first half largely dominated by the Dubs, Paul Geaney’s goal gave Kerry a one-point lead at the break.
Kerry stretched their lead to three before Paddy Small’s goal brought Dublin back into it.
Close all the way, Dublin showed their big-day experience to win by two and deny Kerry back-to-back titles.
It is Dublin’s first Sam Maguire triumph since they completed their six-in-a-row in 2020, while Kerry are left to reflect after failing to secure successive titles for the first time since 2007.
At the sound of David Gough’s final whistle, the Dublin players fell to their knees as the realisation of the end of a three-year journey back to the top took over.
The Dublin fans roared like it was their first, while there was utter dejection from those clad in green and gold as, after a year in the sun, they were forced to watch the familiar sight of a Dublin triumph at Croke Park.
It is Dublin’s 31st Sam Maguire Cup – seven short of Kerry’s record haul – but significantly it is a record ninth medal for Dublin captain James McCarthy, Stephen Cluxton and Michael Fitzsimons.
All three of those players featured for Dublin in the 2011 final win over Kerry, the success which kickstarted the county’s All-Ireland dominance, and like that game 12 years ago – which Dublin won by a point thanks to a late Cluxton score – this was a difficult final to call as Gaelic football’s two most decorated counties traded blows at a raucous Croke Park.
Geaney goal gives Kerry edge
For much of the first half, it looked as though all the half-time chat would focus on Dublin’s dominance and brilliant defending.
While the Dubs only managed six scores, they were frustrating Kerry at the other end with Michael Fitzsimons’ superb man-marking job on David Clifford symptomatic of how organised and alert the Dub defenders were.
There were clear examples. After being set up by Paudie Clifford, it looked as though Paul Geaney was going to score a Kerry goal after just five minutes only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Brian Howard.
Later in the half, in one of the rare instances of him actually shaking off Fitzsimons, David Clifford looked to have carved a goal chance of his own, but with Fitzsimons on the ground, two more Dublin defenders charged at the Kerry forward to turn the ball over.
At the other end, Dublin were having more joy. After Stephen Cluxton knocked over an early ’45, there were fine scores from Brian Fenton and Paul Mannion (2) as well as a Cormac Costello free.
When Cluxton fired over his second point, Dublin were 0-6 to 0-4 and looking on top going into half-time until David Clifford managed to create space out on the right and find Geaney with a sumptuous pass inside, the full forward keeping his composure before firing the ball to the Dublin net.
It was the first championship goal Cluxton had conceded since the 2019 All-Ireland final replay, and it felt like a real momentum-shifter with three Seanie O’Shea points and David Clifford’s early effort from play the only scores the Kingdom managed prior to their green flag.
Pictures by RTE Television Sport