The 2011 All Ireland Final is a game that will be spoken fondly about by Dublin supporters for decades to come.
Not because it was the greatest game of football between Dublin and Kerry, but for its significance in the evolution of today’s squad.
Few games if any have matched it for the suffocating tension of that game for both the players and supporters.
Dublin were appearing in their first final in sixteen years and there was an electric atmosphere all around the ground and an anticipation from those glad in sky blue that 16 years of hurt would finally end.
Dublin enjoyed the better of the first half, Kerry opened the scoring from a fisted point from Declan O’Sullivan. Dublin hit back with two points from Alan Brogan.
But Dublin failed to turn their possession into scores and were punished in the when Darren O’Sullivan made an incisive run through the Dubs defence, offloaded the ball to Colm Cooper who stroked the ball past Stephen Cluxton for the games first goal.
Kerry though only added a single point for the rest of the half. Points from Bernard Brogan with three and a Stephen Cluxton free gave Dublin a one point interval lead with the score 0-06 to 1-02.
The opening ten minutes of the second period were evenly contested with the sides swapping a brace of points each, a free from Bernard Brogan was followed by a Denis Bastick point.
Kerry responded with a Sheehan free and fisted point by Kieran Donaghy. But Kerry then hit a purple patch and outscored Dublin by 0-06 to 0-01.
When Colm Cooper scored a point from play with ten minutes left in the game the Kingdom led by four and the green and gold ribbons were already being prepared to be tied around the handles of the San Maguire Cup.
Dublin though were not about to go quietly away and with seven minutes to go a loose hand pass was intercepted in midfield, the ball was fed to Alan Brogan who hand passed the ball to the on rushing Kevin McManamon.
The St Jude’s man chinked inside Declan O’Sullivan and buried the ball to the back of the net to leave the bare minimum between the teams. The stadium erupted and felt like it was shaking.
Croke Park was still vibrating when Macauley intercepted another loose Kerry hand pass in midfield, he was fouled, Alan Brogan hit the free to Diarmuid Connolly who passed the ball to an unmarked Kevin Nolan about 42 metres out from goal and he hit a superb point to level the game.
The noise around the stadium was deafening and got even louder moments later when Bernard Brogan gave Pat Gilroy’s men the lead with an excellent point and Dublin supporters began to dream that maybe just maybe their team would be crowned champions.
Kerry had one last sting in their tail and from out on the Cusack Stand side about 35 metres out Kieran Donaghy swung his boot at the ball, if went high into the sky and had enough legs to go over the bar.
A draw now looked on the cards but Dublin had one last attack in them. The ball was worked up field and Kevin McManamon was fouled, Bernard Brogan signaled to Cluxton to make his way up field to take the free.
The game was now in injury time, score this and Dublin would surely be crowned All Ireland Champions for the first time since 1995. All the pressure was on Cluxton, he placed the ball down, took a look at the target, he took five steps back and two to his right, paused, took his run up and stroked the ball over the bar.
Hill 16 and all around the stadium erupted in euphoria, the stadium shook like Mount Vesuvius and the tremors where probably felt all the way down to Kerry peninsula.
Moments later the final whistle went and the celebrations began. Dublin finally had the monkey of their backs and a new era of dominance has ensued since.
Video Credit: MarcusOCallanain via YouTube