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Saturday 16 December 2017

Darcy: It was really tight but we had the mental toughness to finish job

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly of is fouled by Mayo’s Chris Barrett to earn the winning free for the All-Ireland champs. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly of is fouled by Mayo’s Chris Barrett to earn the winning free for the All-Ireland champs. Photo: Sportsfile

This time three weeks ago, it was Dublin's ability to completely destroy Tyrone that made them worthy occupants of a conversation about the greatest football team of all time.

Now, it's their repeated capacity to grind out one point wins in All-Ireland finals that sets them apart.

"The big thing was the Kerry All-Ireland semi-final in 2013 when we were down four or five points and won by seven," says selector Declan Darcy.

"That was the 68th minute. It was staggering what they can do. There was always that belief in the group that the players at the end is when we are strongest.

"That's when they kick for home. The players on the field at the end of the game are really top players, they drive for home at that stage. It is a key factor in how they play.

"It's been a little too tight for comfort but it's a great sign of the team and they wouldn't have won only they have that mental toughness coming close to the end of games."

It helps, Darcy notes, "to have players as psychologically tough as Dublin's".

Diarmuid Connolly reserved perhaps his most influential All-Ireland final performance for the one he wasn't selected to start.

Blessed

"We have some really special players in this group but how the group functions is fantastic," says Darcy.

"The management group, it's really tight, it works.

"Sometimes it just happens that way and we are really blessed that it functions that way for us. It doesn't always happen that way.

"You would often see managers going to other counties and it doesn't fit. It's right, we're blessed that at this moment in time it's working well.

"Players will be feeding off players. And you can see how the groups works outside football. They are very humble and it goes after those culture and value pieces and they are very reflective of that.

"We stress that not to forget where they come from and how they got here.

"There is that danger that if they stop thinking about that they might lose the run of themselves."

How far Dublin can travel on this journey now, Darcy isn't quite sure.

He's not taken by argument that further success is now inevitable.

Nor is he swayed by the idea that Dublin's financial and population largesse will convert this Championship into a monopoly.

"When I was playing for Leitrim. It didn't bother me," he points out.

"We were lucky in that we had a really good group of players to compete. That comes in cycles.

"I would say the cycle would be wider in Leitrim as it would be in Dublin. That population might feed the teams.

"But I'm involved with Clanna Gael Fontenoys, a small club, 600 or 700 kids competing against the likes of Kilmacud Crokes, Ballyboden who would have three or four times the size of us.

"But when we play against them we don't, just because we have a bigger population it doesn't mean they are any better than us.

"Yes, they might overall beat you because of that size piece but it doesn't really factor into it too much.

"Everyone has to look after what they have.

"In Leitrim it was actually a good asset to have a small group to work from. I remember the Offaly hurlers, they had a small group but yet they were very effective because they were a tightly-knit group like a good club team.

"Year-in, year-out, generally population will drive a little but in that context.

"If you don't put the hard yards into the coaching and have the right people involved, it doesn't matter whether you have a million people or 100 people. It's irrelevant

"The club I was involved in with Leitrim we had 250 people and still we could compete with the best and bigger clubs because of the coaching and the thing was right.

"You see it with the small clubs that come up and play in All-Ireland club finals and well able to compete against them. Population helps but it doesn't guarantee that success path."

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