herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Decent

Not one Dublin supporter will disagree when I say that we've witnessed what surely qualifies as The Greatest Story Ever Told!

Hope is a precious thing. And devoted Dublin fans have watched it bloom every summer, but never fully flower, for 16 long years. Until yesterday.

And then, as Pat Gilroy's men struggled to impose themselves on their more experienced Kerry rivals, it looked as if, yet again, hope was about to slip away. Then with just seven minutes to go it looked that, yet again, hope had wilted on the vine.

But no! Like an old bike that's been given a high-tech makeover, Dublin found another gear and a few scores later the old stadium (revamped of course) erupted like it's the rare auld times. The Jacks are well and truly back.

I went along yesterday in the interests, if not of science, then of journalism. I swore I wouldn't get emotionally involved. Why should I? My old neighbours on the Navan Road, Artane, Sandymount, Ranelagh and Kenilworth know my football roots are deep in the fertile soil of the Royal County. And I love it. But for me with this Dublin team, it's different. These guys are an exceptional bunch of players and decent lads. Many of the old guard richly deserve an All-Ireland medal. The others will, I expect, earn more honours in the years ahead.



Combusting

Let me tell you something about the stress of All-Ireland final day. It's not for the faint-hearted. I once wore a heart-monitoring machine during an All-Ireland final as a scientific experiment (a lark, I told the lads in Joxer Daly's) but found myself called in for examination afterwards! And I'd been in the stand! The pressure on the pitch is ferocious.

Yesterday, I was convinced the full-throated communal rendition of Amhran na bhFiann could be heard in graveyards all over the country. It was that intense.

By match time, Dublin manager Pat Gilroy had his squad prepared to the last degree. Nothing was left to chance. Bar somebody spontaneously combusting in the heat of the thermonuclear energy being radiated by Hill 16, his team would deliver the goods whether they faced the Golden Hordes of Genghis Khan, the Banzai attack of Emperor Hirohito or the might and cuteness of Kerry.

Such was my belief in Dublin that I staged a little wager on the outcome. I did so because of an old friend, a true blue and a brilliant football analyst. His name was Jack Gilroy, a former colleague in Independent Newspapers.

Back in the day, Jack would engage me in insightful conversation about recent matches. I'd been having these in-depth chats for months before I discovered I was talking to a living legend. A St Vincent's and Dublin stalwart, Jack knew the game inside out. A close buddy of Kevin Heffernan, he was a font of football knowledge.

I had an enormous respect and affection for my friend. His son, Pat, the current Dublin manager probably wouldn't be aware of this, but Jack enjoyed setting me intractable football puzzles to solve.

The last time we spoke, on the phone, Jack asked me to get back to him with my best- ever Sean Boylan Meath fifteen. The wily fox knew what he was doing. Although Jack passed on a few years ago, and I still haven't figured out the ideal team sheet.

So ,yesterday, I prayed for Dublin to win not just for the players, their manager and my pals but also my deceased friend. And his son's team didn't let us down. It was nail-biting but they delivered.

I'll collect my winnings tomorrow and maybe plan a quiet weekend away.

Where should I go? I hear the Lakes of Killarney are lovely at this time of year, and very quiet in the Kingdom too.

That might be me you'll hear singing and toasting the new All-Ireland champions. C'mon ye boys in blue!

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