| 17.3°C Dublin

What's another year for Dublin's True Blue army?

The hard core of those who follow Dublin Gaelic Football are like a little army.

They stand in the same spot on The Hill and they drink in the same pubs. The pattern has a little changed in recent years: Their favourite pubs used to be in Fairview; now most of that little army converge on Mulligans', on Poolbeg Street, after Croke Park.

After the bigger games, they overflow the old pub and take up much of the street.

This, of course, is illegal but there is nothing wrong with it.

Kerry people drink there, too. And Mulligans' has been known as the pub where many romances begin and where some romances end.

Kerry's followers for years used to drink in The Shakespeare on Parnell Street. There, after a game you would see a row of pints on the long counter all ready for topping up.

The followers now tend to drink in Moran's on Gardiner Street, or in The Merchant on Merchant's Quay, or in Chaplin's on Hawkins Street.

Whether in victory or defeat you can always expect great craic between the two lots of partisans. You can be certain that it was much the same yesterday evening. Dublin's hard core have become accustomed to losing but they live in hope.

What's another year..?

When I lived in Kerry, we almost always travelled home the night of the match. We used to stop in a little country pub in Laois. There, the people always envied us.

They used to say: "Isn't it fine for you... You have won so many All-Irelands and we haven't got even one."

It was often late when we got home -- even though some of us had to work in the morning.

I remember especially an occasion when I had to help a neighbour to drive his cattle to the fair. I was roused at about four o'clock. We had a hard job to round up his cattle because his fences weren't in great shape. I wasn't in great shape myself.

As soon as we had the cattle settled in the fair, I left my friend in charge and adjourned to a pub.

This was long before the coming of Television. And because I had been to Croke Park, my neighbours in the pub looked on me as Mohammedans do as one of their people who has been to Mecca.

Of course, there were questions about the match. Who played well? What was the turning point?

I did my best -- but some of those who had heard the game on the wireless questioned my opinions.

Imagination

One man was especially dogmatic. He spoke confidently about those who had played well and he had no doubts about the turning point.

He didn't agree with my opinions. Next day, I discovered that he hadn't even heard the game on the wireless. He had been fishing all day. The imagination is wonderful.

I have a special memory of the Monday night after the All-Ireland final in 1937.

Kerry had beaten Cavan in a memorable game. I was in Griffin's pub-cum-shop in the town with my father. The talk was all Football.

A little man called Eugene Cantillon came in. His name suggested that he was of French origin. He was a cobbler.

He was a small thin man. He had a flat cap and a moustache and a long pointed nose.

On the previous day in Croke Park, the famous John Joe Landers had scored two brilliant goals.

We had action replay in those days. Eugene put two high stools in the middle of the bar and took a big round Spanish onion from the sack and burst into a run and went left around the first stool and right around the second stool and then with his right foot sent the onion flying into the darkness of the street.

This replay was enacted again and again as more people came in and always to great applause. Eugene had a great night. For better or worse none of those big onions hit anybody.

It would have made a great headline in The Kerryman: "Man felled by flying onion in Castle Island's Main Street."

In those long lost but not forgotten days the road to Kerry always seemed short when we won -- but endless when we lost.

I'm sure that the Dubs, despite their loss, didn't worry about their journey home last night.

They are lucky -- even Skerries and Ballyboden aren't very far away. The boys who sport the blue remind me of a concept beloved of Ernest Hemingway. I think of them as the undefeated.