Dubs are Kings of the Hill
Bernard Brogan confirmed his status as the new darling of Hill 16 with a stunning performance as 14 man Dublin held off brave Kildare in an epic Leinster SFC final at Croke Park on Sunday by a score of 2-15 to 0-18.
Brogan dragged Dublin across the line with five brilliant late points after his team recovered from the loss of defender Ger Brennan to a deserved red card for striking late in the first half.
“Bernard showed great bottle to take those scores at the end,” said Dubs boss Pat Gilroy afterwards.
“He is keen to really make his mark with the Dublin team now. He has done a lot at club football but this is the first year where he has really established himself with Dublin.”
Dublin’s post match press conference lasted all of four minutes but goal scorer Barry Cahill admitted, “Any Leinster title is nice to get, particularly in the manner that we did it after going down to 14 men.
“We were a bit disjointed at times, towards the end of the first-half, but we got in at halftime and sorted a few things out. We put in a very good second half performance.
“We showed a lot of character out there to come back in the manner we did. It’s a nice victory and hopefully we will build on this.”
As for his early, early goal Cahill said, “It was one of my better finishes. It was probably my first goal for Dublin so I was due one at this stage.”
Dublin captain Paul Griffin said, “We knew going out that Kildare were going to be a serious challenge. We got off to a great start but, in fairness to them they didn’t panic.
“They chipped away at it and put us under a lot of pressure. They made us delay a bit on the ball which didn’t suit us. When we moved it quickly we played some good football and then we just took it out a bit in the last ten, 15 minutes.”
Star forward Alan Brogan said, “Thankfully we got the tough game we were looking for. I’m very thankful to come out the right side of it. I’d say it was the toughest game in a number of years.”
Manager Gilroy adopted something of an Arsene Wenger attitude when it came to the subject of Brennan’s red card. He said, “I didn’t see the Ger incident but it is very disappointing to have a guy sent off. It was a tough hard game.
“I didn’t see it but I am sure he wasn’t sent off for nothing. All the guys who came in made a difference. We were drifting before halftime.
“We needed a game like that and we got it in bucketfuls today. It is exactly what we wanted.”
Ironically, Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney believed the first half dismissal of Brennan acted as a rallying call for the Dubs.
“What happens is the cumulative effect of the other team working harder,” claimed McGeeney. “You can do psychology until you are blue in the face, but when fellows know they have to work hard, it’s better than anything else you can teach them.”
Kildare failed to cope with the extra-man, particularly in the second half as McGeeney acknowledged.
“We were very lethargic in our tackling because we had the extra man. We were taking an extra pass rather than moving the ball quicker -- that is the biggest lesson,” he added.
Tipperary made it back to back Munster SHC titles as they withheld a late Waterford revival at Thurles on Sunday (4-14 to 2-16), and star midfielder Shane McGrath now believes they are better equipped than ever for an All-Ireland bid.
Tipp avenged last year’s All-Ireland semifinal defeat to Waterford, and that experience stood to them in Sunday’s entertaining provincial decider.
“It goes down to all the younger lads coming in this year, and obviously manager Liam Sheedy and the boys on the line,” said McGrath.
“They know what to say at the right time. I think we’re more of a team this year than last year -- we train a lot harder, we’ve put in a lot more. We’re a closer team.
“You don’t win anything unless you’re a close team and friends. At the end of the day, we’re all friends and we’ll all plug away for each other.”
Tipp boss Liam Sheedy was also quick to accentuate the positives after the game and said, “We’re down to the last four and we’re delighted to be there.
“We have to be fair and honest, Waterford out hurled us for long patches and we were tipping the odd point here and there. We continued to struggle for that level of consistency right through but when you’re playing teams of the caliber of Waterford, you’re not going to own the field for 70 minutes.
“Overall, we came here to win, we’ve won and we’re delighted to be back in Croke Park. We’re thinking only of the All-Ireland semifinal now.”
Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald was quick to praise his players after their four point defeat and pointed out that a number of Tipperary scores came from his team’s mistakes.
“My heart goes out to our lads because they gave it everything and set up a grandstand finish from nowhere. We made mistakes and were punished for them,” said Fitzgerald.
“Those first half goals we gave away have to be put down to our own mistakes. But, of course, these things will happen. We also conceded a fourth goal shortly after halftime and that made our job an even more difficult one.
“In the end, we were punished for what I would say were very bad errors.”
Waterford are likely to play Cork or Galway in the All-Ireland quarterfinals now and Fitzgerald added, “Whoever we meet next time out will not be an easy game for us, but my task is to ensure that we are ready for whoever we play. And I am confident we will be.”
Kerry forward Kieran Donaghy faces at least two months out of action after a scan on Monday confirmed new damage to his recent foot injury. Donaghy limped out of Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier win against Longford (1-12 to 0-11), his first game back since breaking a metatarsal bone in the Munster championship.
Declan O’Sullivan also picked up a knee injury in the Longford game, and man of the match Tommy Walsh felt the loss of the two big names was a blow to Kerry on the day.
“We will have a look at what we did wrong because when we lost Declan O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy we lost our shape and I think it had a big factor on the game,” Walsh told reporters after the game.
“The main thing was to get the victory. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially with the conditions. We got out at the right end, we’re just happy to have come through.
“Our backs were to the wall, they kept coming at us, they were winning the breaks, going in harder for the ball. But, happily, we’re through.”
Longford manager Glenn Ryan saw hope in the way his side battled back to within four points of the Kingdom in the second half.
“We worked hard,” said Ryan. “We are very disappointed with our first half performance, we didn’t do ourselves justice. Kerry were very clinical.”
Laois boss Sean Dempsey was left stunned when highly rated youngster Donie Kingston failed to show for the trip to Newry last Saturday, and he was none pleased after his team’s 2-9 to 0-7 defeat to Down in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
“There’s a fabulous young player in the county and he wouldn’t even come on the bus today. That’s Donie Kingston. Who’s getting inside his head?” asked Dempsey.
“He’s a good player, he’s a talented footballer but if he was listening to the right people he’d be all right. I’d be very disappointed at some people out there who profess to be Laois supporters, but then go around will knives in their hands to stab you in the back.
“There are people in certain quarters and they’d be better off somewhere else than supporting Laois. They want their nearest and dearest and their clubmen on the team, but they don’t want to work at it.
“I don’t want to be making a big deal out of it -- he’s a young player -- but I think if the decision was his and his alone, he’d have been on the bus. It is hard to work in that type of scenario.”
Derry answered the critics with a clinical 3-16 to 0-20 win over Monaghan in the All-Ireland qualifiers in Clones on Saturday night, much to the delight of star forward Paddy Bradley.
“We took a lot of flak after the Tyrone game, rightly so, we didn’t perform, so it was great to come back, especially against Monaghan because they are a really good side,” said Bradley, who scored 2-8 on the day.
Derry vice captain Niall McCusker is out of the rest of the championship campaign with a groin injury.
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney, who refused to discuss his own future, said, “We conceded three bad goals. You can’t concede three goals in a championship match and expect to win.”
Clare never looked like troubling Galway in Saturday’s qualifier in Ennis and manager Mike McNamara admitted, “I thought something good was on the cards today, but we struggled in keys areas, seemed to get the match plan wrong.
“We tried to adjust, as we did against Tipperary in the Munster SHC semifinal. The adjustments went well that day, but didn’t go so well today.
“We have to have a look at the whole structure. Why our level of consistency is so poor, why so many fellas drop the heads so early, so easily. We have fellas who should be able to contest with the best, but they aren’t contesting with the best.”