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'The penalty and silly free kicks and mistakes cost us the game'

The Dubs were left singing the blues after their bruising defeat to Cork in a thrilling semi-final encounter.

The pubs and bars around Croke Park were thronged with dejected members of the Blue Army as they drowned their sorrows in raucous style.

"It's terrible, a total joke," said Carolyn Clare from Firhouse. "We looked like we were going to do it the whole time but it all started going wrong towards the end. We tried our best but it just wasn't enough."

There with her friend Graeme Walsh, she added how they were probably going to head for a few drinks locally to console themselves.

A disappointed Emma McMahon from Killiney reckoned the boys in blue just weren't good enough and made a litany of errors.

"They gave away that penalty in the second half and there were loads of stupid free kicks and silly mistakes that they made. But my boyfriend's from Cork so at least one of us is happy today," she said.

Her other half Bernard Dunne, from Cork City, said he was delighted that the boys from the Rebel County had managed to hold their nerve in such a nail-biting finish.

"I'm absolutely delighted. It's fair to say I would never have heard the end of it if Cork had been beaten today so I can hold my head up high now," he explained.

"I was always confident that they would do the job so it was a great result for us."

Another inter-county couple watching the match was Crumlin's Shane Biggs with wife Ellie from West Cork.

"Dublin did have a better game but they just couldn't do it in the end and Ross McConnell totally deserved to get sent off," Ellie claimed.

"Shane's not one bit happy with the result -- I think he's going to have early night but I'm over the moon."

GAA-mad friends Aine O'Donovan, Siobhan Murray, Sarah Reid from Lusk and Raheny pal Deirdre Kilmurray were philosophical about the result.

And they reckoned that Donncha O'Connor netting a 54th minute penalty was the beginning of the end for the Dubs.

"We really didn't deserve to win, the way we played and that penalty that they gave away in the second half just ruined us. We're going down to Fagan's now for a few drinks," said Aine.

Her friend Sarah also blamed carelessness on the part of the Dubs for letting the match slip through their fingers. "Cork just got a real burst of confidence after the penalty and they went for it from that point onwards. We looked like we were going to do it initially but then it all went wrong," she said.

Friends Sanne O'Connor from Sutton and Sonja O'Connor from Rathmines still reckoned the dramatic second half gave the semi-final an extra layer of excitement.

"It was a good match all the same, real nail-biting stuff and you had no idea which way it was going to go," said Sonja. "The first half we definitely thought Dublin were going to do it and they played well but Cork were always the favourites to win it. We are disappointed but that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Members of the Rebel Army were naturally over the moon with the close victory that they snatched from the Dubs.

Up for the day were pals Helen and John O'Leary with daughter Marie (11) alongside Margaret and Ted O'Sullivan and daughter Jane (12). All members of the Eire Og GAA club, they said they were looking forward to the crucial final.

"We are ecstatic, to be honest, we couldn't have hoped for better," said Ted. "We got to all the matches, we even came up early this morning to do the tour of Croke Park so that really got us in the mood for the game."

Cheering hard for the Rebel County were an over-joyed Doireann and Marion O'Sullivan, whose father Ger is a selector for Cork.

Waiting outside the VIP exit to Croke Park, she said they were all "absolutely thrilled" with the win.

There with Michelle Cronin and Ciara Murphy (10), they were looking to paint the town red in the wake of the victory. "We are all massive fans and I decided not to go abroad this summer and go to the matches instead," explained Michelle.

mfinn@herald.ie