Dublin overcame the spirited challenge of Kildare to claim their first Bank of Ireland Leinster football title since 1995 with a 2-13 to 2-11 victory in front of an official attendance of 78,033 at sundrenched Croke Park this afternoon. Tommy Lyons' men were well worth their two-point winning margin in what was an absorbing contest in sultry conditions, although both sides squandered plenty of chances that could have given either victory.
Dublin's win can be attributed to two key spells of play – the first, their dominance in the opening twenty minutes when they opened up a 0-05 to 0-01 advantage, and the second, two goals in two minutes just before the hour which altered the complexion of the game completely.
Dublin's forward trio of John McNally, Ray Cosgrove and Alan Brogan were in inspired form in the opening exchanges as they pointed at will to give Dublin a comfortable advantage, with John Doyle scoring Kildare's first point nine minutes in. Dublin were rampant throughout the park but with the emergence of Dermot Earley in midfield, the Lilywhites slowly began to assert themselves on the game.
Doyle was instrumental in keeping Mick O'Dwyer's men in touch with four points in the opening half, and Kildare finally got the goal their adventurous play merited 26 minutes in. Cillian Brennan found Tadgh Fennin and the tricky forward side-stepped the close attentions of his marker and unleashed an unstoppable left foot shot past Stephen Cluxton to give Kildare a one point advantage.
Points from Senan Connell and Paddy Christie restored Dublin's lead and they held firm to take a 0-09 to 1-05 interval lead. Carl O'Dwyer would have brought a smile to his father's face when he equalised within thirty seconds of the restart, and Brennan could have edged them in front but he pulled his effort wide a minute later, with both sides looking nervous in front of goal.
Then Kildare shocked Dublin when Fennin capitalised on an uncharacteristic mistake by Darren Magee to edge them in front again. The Dublin defender tried to hand-pass across his goal under intense pressure from Earley and the lively forward intercepted and hammered the ball to the net to stun the masses of home support.
Ray Cosgrove was then shown the first yellow card for a hefty challenge on Damien Hendy, who had to leave the field with blood pouring from his right ear. The sides were level for the third time in the match when Moran and Connell combined for the latter to point when a goal looked possible before Fennin added another point from play.
Kildare's Padraig Mullarkey and Dublin's Paul Casey followed Cosgrove into the book soon after, and Doyle claimed his fifth point with a composed free from a tight angle to increase Kildare's advantage. However, two goals in two minutes just before the hour changed the complexion of the game, with Brogan stepping up for the first. The corner-forward pounced on a knockdown ten yards out and evaded the challenge of four Kildare defenders before finding the net via a post to restore Dublin's advantage. And within a minute Cosgrove added a second to give the Blues a four point cushion with a neatly taken goal low to Enda Murphy's left.
Cosgrove and Doyle exchanged points with the clock ticking down, and Cluxton denied Fennin from close range to keep Dublin's noses in front. Pat Murray added another point for Kildare in added time to reduce the deficit to two points, but Dublin held firm to the joy and relief of their success starved followers, who have had to wait seven years to witness their county's footballers bring the provincial prize home.
Filed by Shane Murray