Cahill toed thin Blue line
Dublin hero reveals the injury that threatened All-Ireland immortality
IF you thought Dublin's preparations for that epic All-Ireland final win were pristine and uneventful ... you couldn't be more wrong.
On the face of it, Pat Gilroy named the same 15 players that beat Donegal in the All-Ireland final and each took their place in the pre-match parade, sang the anthem and stood in their spots when Joe McQuillan threw the ball in.
But more than a third of the Dubs which reclaimed Sam Maguire after a decade-and-a-half absence were injury doubts going into the final.
The extent of Paul Flynn's hamstring agony was detailed in the Herald last week while it has since emerged that Dennis Bastick's place was under threat due to a nagging ankle injury.
James McCarthy and Rory O'Carroll both missed a sizeable portion of training in the lead-up to the final, but perhaps the most serious ailment and greatest doubt was Barry Cahill.
It says plenty of the water-tight layer of silence surrounding the Dublin camp in the weeks before September 18 that word of his broken toe never seeped out but the injury, sustained in the first half of the Donegal win, seriously threatened to rule him out of the day he had spent a decade trying to make.
"I didn't actually remember it happening in the first half of the Donegal game," Cahill told the Herald.
"It was only later on that night that I realised it. I got an X-ray on Monday morning and found out that my toe was broken. It was pretty sore and the toe was swollen and bruised for a week or 10 days. So I just had to stay off my feet for 10 days."
The St Brigid's man attempted to train on the Tuesday, just 12 days before Dublin's date with destiny, but with the pain still overbearing he contacted an old business associate, Anthony Foy, with a novel idea. Foy, an Offaly native and former Gaelic footballer, is head of evoshield-ireland.com, a company which manufactures protective sportswear. And so a plan was hatched.
Cahill would wear a a foam cast on the little toe in his right foot and along with a pain-killing injection, he sailed safely through the biggest day of his career.
"I was a small bit concerned because I had never broken a bone like that before and I wasn't sure how it would react," Cahill says. "I got a pain-killing injection too, to help me through it.
"But the shield helped me because if someone had stood on my foot, it could have been trouble."
As it happened, Cahill was replaced by Pat Gilroy in the second-half, a move which meant he watched the final few gripping moments from the Dublin subs bench in the Lower Hogan Stand.
But like most of those who have soldiered alongside Stephen Cluxton for so long, he wasn't in any doubt as to the final outcome.
"Once Stephen got the ball," he says, "I headed down to the pitch. I knew he was going to kick it over."
The clock had gone into 72 when the ball was over so we knew there wasn't much time left.
"It was just pure elation. A few of us are at it a good few years now.
"At times over the last few years, we doubted if we would ever get back there after a couple of bad All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final defeats. So it was a great feeling and to see everyone celebrating, it's something I'll never forget."
At 30, Cahill isn't old enough to be contemplating retirement but he is hopeful that one man still weighing up his future will decide to give the Dublin cause another little while. "For everyone in the squad and the panel, we would hope Pat stays on," he says of the manager. "He is very busy in his job and he has a young family so it's difficult from that point of view.
"An inter-county manager's job now is pretty much a full-time job. The hours they put in are incredible. But he has done a great job in the last couple of years.
"But I think we're in a good position now going forward and we'd like to see everyone stick together for the next year or two anyway.
"That '95 team, those lads were that bit further down the line. Apart from a couple of us, most of the lads in this squad are around the early-to-mid-20s mark. They're at a great age.
"Winning an All-Ireland should give the lads great confidence over the next couple of years," he adds. "Hopefully, it will lead to more success."