Kerry and Galway served up an intense and exciting All-Ireland football final in Croke Park this afternoon with the game finishing in a draw, 0-14, 0-14. It really was a game of two halves as Kerry ran riot in the opening 20 minutes and surged into a 0-8 to 0-1 lead that left the Tribesmen looking well out of it. However the introduction of Kevin Walsh increased the possession available to Galway and they reduced the gap to three by half-time, 0-10 to 0-7, before again upping the game and outplaying the Kingdom in the second period. Superb football was the hallmark of the first half especially from the Kerry forwards, and while the second half was not of the same standard the tension was almost unbearable as the game entered a scrappy last 10 minutes. It wasn’t until three minutes from the end that the Tribesmen leveled the scores and both sides had opportunities to win it before referee Pat McEneaney blew it up and ensured both sides would have to return to do it all again on October 7th.

The early dominance of Kerry suggested that Galway’s lack of a serious close call on their way to the final was now hindering them and with the majority of the possession Johnny Crowley and Mike Frank Russell in particular were making their mark on the scoreboard. It was obvious that young Joe Bergin was out of it in midfield and Galway manager John O’Mahony didn’t hesitate on the sideline, withdrawing the All-Ireland final debutant and bringing in the experienced Kevin Walsh. The move worked and suddenly Galway burst into life with Padraic Joyce, Niall Finnegan and Derek savage taking scores before Kerry settled and held their three point half-time lead.

Kerry again started the second as they had the first as Dara Ó Cinneide and Dara Ó Se took early scores. Galway’s pride again surfaced as they hit back with two of their own through captain Padraic Joyce and Walsh, before reducing the deficit to one by the 50 minute. Cue Maurice Fitzgerald for Johnny Crowley, and the Kingdom looked to have a star to turn th egame back theur way again.

However it was John O’Mahony’s substitutions that worked the better and the Galway defence, now with Richie Fahy in place of Ray Silke, was in no form to let Fitzgerald do his usual routine. The Kerry selectors’ judgements in not starting their star performer were validated as Fitzgerald was well off form and looked below match fitness.

Kerry would only score one more point through an Ó Cinneide free as Michael Donnellan and company took a grasp of the game and ploughed forward. Donnellan’s brother John was introduced and again reduced the deficit to one before Padraic Joyce equalized with a free three minutes from time. Pat McEneaney wasn’t in form to play much injury time and blew up with just 39 seconds extra on the clock.

Neither side threatened a goal with any certainty on a warm and dry afternoon but it may take one to separate the sides on Saturday week. The psychological advantage may also have swung to the Tribesmen who came back from 7 point deficit and outscored Kerry 7 points to 4 as they showed their worth in the second half. Nothing as yet resolved, another intriguing battle between football giants can be expected in two weeks time.

Filed by Jimmy D'Arcy