A strange phenomenon for Kerry, that, the pitching up at Croke Park at high intensity in May. The invasion upon Jones' Road usually waits until August, but what is rare proved to be wonderful in an engaging League final, the first meeting of the two sides in the final of this competition since the 1980s. Following a league campaign in which left many singing the competition's praises over the absurdly-structured Championship, and in front of a record crowd for a league game at Croke Park, the final between Dublin/Kerry promised to be instructive of Championship clashes to come.
We almost saw Kerry at full intensity at Croke Park in the Spring and learn the extent of Dublin's advantage over Kerry, but a red card for Aidan O'Mahony fatally lessened the Kingdom's resistance and allowed Dublin win out easily.
As is now becoming traditional, the ferocious Dubs were the better side, with Kerry doing well to keep pace with the champions throughout before Jim Gavin's relentless machine made the most of a numerical advantage to chug away in the final stages, pointing a penalty and eventually converting a couple of goals to win by eleven points.
Dublin led by two points at half-time, an opening half beguiled by the presence of Colm Cooper:
— Shane Tully (@OfficialShaneT) April 24, 2016
Colm Cooper is still pure class. #DUBvKER
— keanu niamh (@HoorayForNiamh) April 24, 2016
Dublin eventually tightened their grip of the game in the second-half, but struggled to pull away from Kerry as Kieran Donaghy and Darren O'Sullivan landed utterly brilliant points to keep Kerry in touch. As Croke Park got excited at the novel prospect of seeing what Kerry were truly made of in April, Aidan O'Mahony picked up a straight red card for an off the ball challenge on Johnny Cooper.
Aidan O'Mahony walks,straight red. Another decision awaits. Red mist once too often? Dubs lead 0-13 0-11 and should see it through now.
— Tony Leen (@tonyleen) April 24, 2016
Aidan O'Mahony sent off. Will miss the Munster semi-final #GAA
— John Fogarty (@JohnFogartyIrl) April 24, 2016
Kerry rallied and got the game to within a point, but the challenge proved ephemeral, as Dublin soon pulled away. Dean Rock was confident enough to point a penalty with ten minutes to go to widen the gap to three points:
I back Dean Rock for first goal scorer, Dublin get a penalty, Dean Rock takes it and he just taps it over! Fuck sake..
— Jimmy Ö'Grady (@Jimmyjog94) April 24, 2016
But Dublin soon found the goalscoring groove, with Brendan Kealy mimicking Paul Durcan in taking a terrible kick-out that went straight to Paul Flynn:
Paul Flynn with a replica of Donaghys goal v Donegal in '14 AI Final. Game over #GAA
— Derrick Lynch (@DLynchSport) April 24, 2016
Somewhere in Dubai Paul Durcan cracks a wry smile.
— McBreartysRightPeg (@Chimp1979) April 24, 2016
Paul Durcan like assist from Kealy #Curtains
— Kevin Barry (@KevinBarry15) April 24, 2016
Ultimately, Dublin ran up a score to win the game comfortably by 2-18 to 0-13. Dublin's victory is very ominous for the rest of the country, with Gavin's side looking as ruthless and relentless as they have been at any stage of his reign. They are making light of the potential weaknesses highlighted before the season, with Johnny Cooper replacing Rory O'Carroll at full-back with the minimum of fuss.
For Kerry, a disappointing defeat, and even more for those watching. It would have been interesting to see what Kerry are capable of at full-pelt in April, and exactly how adamantine the Dubs defence really is. The O'Mahony sending off robbed us of that possibility. Perhaps a full-strength Kerry will be closer to Dublin come August, but at the end of one of the greatest National Leagues in living memory,in front of a record attendance, we didn't get the full finale the competition deserved.
There is a nagging feeling that there may still be something extra from Kerry in the summer. Perhaps that's exactly how they want it.