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Saturday 10 December 2016

Fans felt like it was going to just be one of those days - but this team think differently

Nicole McClean & Aine McClean during the All Ireland Semi Final Football match between Dublin & Kerry at Croke Park. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin
Nicole McClean & Aine McClean during the All Ireland Semi Final Football match between Dublin & Kerry at Croke Park. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin

"Was it in lads?"

"It was."

"No way, he saved it."

"Looked in to me."

"Never mind that, what the hell is going on with Cluxton?"

Half time in the Hogan Stand and all the chat is about the Kerry goal that should never have been. Or was rightly given.

It depended whether you wore blue and white, or green and gold.

A high ball dropping under the bar, a Kerry challenge on a nervous Stephen Cluxton and then a flailing dive as the Dubs keeper seemed to claw it off the line. The umpire's little green flag flapping in the wind before you could say "go to Hawkeye".

It threatened to be one of those days at Croke Park. If you wear blue, you know the drill by now: A Dublin side tears out of the blocks, passes and moves, kicks scores and ticks over nicely.

They're going to coast this, you think to yourself.

At 25 minutes, the giant scoreboard on the Hill showed nine points on the board to Kerry's meagre four.

Then, pandemonium.

Cluxton's short kickout finds a Kerry shirt, the ball moves from one pair of Kerry hands to another and nestles in the Dublin net.

Moments later, a high ball drops under Cluxton's crossbar and incredibly ends up as a Kerry goal.

There's bedlam in the stands. Kingdom fans punch the air as the teams jog off for half time.

Dublin fans work their way through an A-Z of expletives. Disbelief. Shock. That old sinking feeling.

"No way did that cross the line."

"How the sweet **** ***** ***** **** Jaysus are we losing this?"

Kerry fans begin to believe.

Jim Gavin follows his players out for the start of the second half with the kind of steely glare that says "hairdryer treatment".

The Dubs work their way back into it. Five points down, five points clawed back.

"We have a game now," one Dub says rubbing his hands.

"We sure do," says a Kerryman.

But Kerry won't be denied. This isn't last September. They're here to win.

Doubts

Three points go over Dublin's bar and the Hill bursts into a defiant chorus of You Boys in Blue.

But everywhere around the ground Kerry supporters are jubilant, Dubs are having doubts. Serious doubts. But the players? No panic, no change of plan.

They keep playing, kicking scores and trading blows - literally - with the men in green and gold.

We suddenly find ourselves in added time asking when the replay will be. Kevin McManamon is thinking differently. He looks like he's heading in the direction of Quinn's when he bends an unbelievable point over the bar. The place explodes. Dublin fans are bouncing. The ball is worked down the pitch and Connolly slots over a sumptuous point. The final whistle goes, grown men hug and dance.

Among it all, one Dublin fan stands in the Hogan with a banner in hand reading "Stole it again? Ye right". Which just shows - it was never in doubt.

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