D15’s Kings of Croker

by Stephen Findlater

DUBLIN 15 quartet Ciaran Kilkenny, Paddy Andrews, Eric Lowndes and Bernard Brogan added to their huge All-Ireland senior football championship titles, bringing it to 18 between them following last Sunday’s narrow win over Mayo in Croke Park.
For Castleknock’s Kilkenny, he has played a crucial role of linking the midfield to a forward line a vital piece of that jigsaw, going into the final as a contender for the 2017 player of the year gong.
However, with huge importance comes close attention from opponents and his role adjusted over the course of the final in the wake of Jack McCaffrey’s departure in the ninth minute to a knee injury.
Kilkenny was tightly marked by Lee Keegan for large parts of Sunday’s game but such is the ability of the young forward, he eventually overcame the attention of last year’s footballer of the year to make some telling runs during the final 15 minutes of the game.
St Brigid’s Andrews started in the full-forward line en route to his fifth title, a feat matched by St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh’s Bernard Brogan who entered the fray in the endgame. St Peregrine’s Lowndes was an unused sub this time around.
In the end, the tie was settled by an injury time free by Dean Rock – who grew up in Garristown – for a 1-17 to 1-16 victory, making it three in a row for Dublin.
“Composure has been the hallmark of these guys,” manager Jim Gavin said afterwards. “They work so hard at their game and are very disciplined in what they do. The sacrifices they make to play Gaelic games is phenomenal.
“That composure when they went two points ahead and had the crowd behind them – there is a perception Mayo had the momentum but in the last quarter we probably outscored them four points to one.
“Recent Dublin [versus] Mayo games have been nip and tuck so I don’t think it was a surprise to our players that there was very little in it going into the last few minutes. I thought our boys showed good composure when the game was there to be won.
“That shows how present the Dublin players were in the game. For them to turn it around and finish so strongly was satisfying,” said Gavin.
The two finalists appear to have moved clear of the chasing pack with plenty of talk of splitting Dublin due to their power in recent years.
But Gavin believes there is very little between many of the big teams and it inevitably comes down to the work put in by the layers throughout the year.
“One of the biggest strengths of this squad is their attitude and what they bring to the Dublin team from their clubs.”

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