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Sunday 19 August 2018

Dubs to edge final by two

IT'S 10 years since Tom Carr's Dubs rumbled Kerry into a replay in Thurles in one of the most eventful and colourful sagas in modern GAA lore.

Ten years since the Dub's 'Trip To Tipp', when some less intrepid supporters undervalued the length of the journey and the propensity for traffic and, thus resigned themselves to parking up in Urlingford and Abbeyleix and watching the match on TV.

Ten years since Dessie Farrell hit the bar from all of a metre out and Collie Moran stumbled and fluffed another nailed-on goal chance.

Ten years since 'Vinnie's gonna getcha' rained down from the blue patches of Semple Stadium as the prodigal son tortured Seamus Moynihan with a barrage of late skill and aggression.

It was the match of a million little stories and Johnny Magee vividly recalls them all.

"Going into Thurles, I was at the back of the bus with Paul Curran, Jason Sherlock, Sennan Connell and Coman Goggins," he remembers. "We actually came into the square and I had tears in my eyes.

"I had never seen so many Dublin fans in one spot before. And when we came into the square, they just erupted. I looked around and I wasn't the only one who had tears in my eyes.

Madness

"It was an occasion and looking back, it was great to be involved. It was madness: Dessie hitting the post, Vinnie coming on, the goals and then Maurice Fitzgerald ... it was mayhem."

Ten years, too, since Maurice Fitz. The sweetest strike of a football ever? Quite possibly. His introduction alone lifted the ailing Kingdom spirits and as he stood on the line taking final instructions from Paidí, the whole stadium exploded.

Dublin had a welcoming party lined up, though, and the men in blue duly ploughed into Kerry's would-be saviour.

"It was Darren Homan, Peadar (Andrews) and myself," Magee laughs.

"I came in for the last shot! But I think it was probably the worst thing we ever did because we warmed him up. He stuck it over the bar."

Magee sees some of the virtues of that Dublin team in today's outfit. The camaraderie and the loyalty, he says, are similar.

"You went out and you wanted to do it for the man beside you," he remembers. And that was testament to Tommy Carr and Dessie Farrell. We were very unlucky in a couple of Leinster finals that things didn't go our way."

It's worth remembering that just as Colm Cooper's spot on the pantheon of great Kerry forwards is being debated at present, so too was Fitzgerald discussed in similar terms back in 2001.

For Magee, there are obvious differences but more revealing parallels.

"Their awareness is very similar," he explains. "The passes they see are incredible. The ability to spot those things and to execute them under pressure is what sets them apart. But if I was to call it, I think Gooch for me would shade it in terms of being an all-round better player."

Back in '01, Johnny was the bouncer at the door of the Dublin defence. The burly number six with a penchant for performance in big games. He was the heart of that Dublin side in much the same way as Ger Brennan has become the leader of the current Dublin defence.

Magee reckons his transformation is primarily down to management.

"Ger's a fine footballer," he says. "He wouldn't be known for his marking abilities so they're playing to Ger's strengths. That's what Armagh did, too. They played to Kieran McGeeney's strengths. It's a similar role.

"They're going to have to come up with something, because you can't give Declan O'Sullivan that sort of space. It's going to be a big ask for Dennis Bastick and Macauley and Bryan Cullen. They're well able to cover for each other but when you give space to Declan O'Sullivan, Darran O'Sullivan and Gooch ... you're playing with fire."

Johnny's prediction? "There is a lot more of a scoring threat from Kerry," Magee warns. "But I think it's going to come down to the last 10 minutes when the fitness of the Dublin team will ask questions of Kerry.

"If Dublin are there or thereabouts, I think they'll win it by two. The hunger and desire within that team will push them over the line," he adds.

3TOMORROW at the annual Kilmacud Crokes sevens tournament in Glenalbyn, a Dublin Legends Team plays a Rest of Ireland selection in Glenalbyn (throw-in 5.15) in aid of Blue September, an agency which raises awareness for cancer in men.

The Dublin team, ironically, will be managed by Mick O'Dwyer and captained by Ciarán Whelan with the likes of Johnny and Darren Magee, Ray Cosgrove, Coman Goggins, Jim Gavin, Paul Curran, Darren Homan, Sennan Connell, Colin Moran and Jason Sherlock lining out in blue.

Seán Boylan manages the Rest of Ireland team, captained by Darragh Ó Sé. "Blue September is about cancer awareness for men," explains Magee (pictured above). "A lot of Irish men are very reluctant to go to the doctor so this is a campaign to get men to go and get checked out."

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