herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Hype can be positive

DUBS must feed off fans’ energy and use it to kick on in Croke Park.

HAVING never fulfilled the ambition, I can't tell you how it must feel for the Dublin footballers to be on the countdown to the All-Ireland football final.

But seeing the large crowd heading into Parnell Park last Friday evening for the Dubs’ “open” training session provided some indication of the level of interest that is engulfing the team.

While this and many other aspects of the football final will be entirely new to all the players involved, the familiarity that comes with every championship game the Dubs have played in 2011 been staged in Croke Park at least means headquarters itself holds no fear.

However, the simple fact that the Dubs are togging out in September for the first time in 16 years and are part of what is being billed as the “dream final” means the increased public and media interest that will follow their every move is a new phenomenon and something management will be hoping they can shelter the team from.

How they set about this though will also require a new thought process and like I imagine the open training session was, all other official media engagements were probably also catered for last

week, providing the team with a two-week uninterrupted lead into the September 18 showdown.

But while Pat Gilroy can control the content of the team gatherings, away from the squad sessions players can't control the phone calls or well-wishers that will come their

way on a day-to-day basis.

If my own text traffic is anything to go by, the demand for tickets on the guys directly involved must be quite staggering. Practically seconds after Maurice Deegan sounded his full-time whistle after their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Donegal the first of many messages landed looking for any spare “golden” tickets!

From past experience of a ticket scramble, catering for everyone is a near impossibility, and while it never overly bothered me, the continual “ask” for a ticket has the potential to interfere with preparation if the issue isn't nipped in the bud and tickets distributed early on.

In sharp contrast, Jack O'Connor’s men have travelled this road before, and, as with the Kilkenny hurlers,

All-Ireland final preparation is almost a habit. New players will come into the team (see Paul Murphy’s performance for the Cats last Sunday) and will sample the big game build-up for the first time, but the experience of those around them dampens the expectation on the rookie, providing a freedom a first-time team player can only wish for.

Similarly, the ticket issue and the increased attention is not something management in the Kingdom need to be overly concerned with either.

The history books prove in no uncertain terms (this is Kerry’s ninth final in 12 years), that when the ball is thrown in these guys

don't ever appear to be burdened by expectation and continually deliver on the big stage.

In some respect the best way to

deal with the razzmatazz that will accompany Dublin's final preparations is that players probably need to accept it rather than fear or shy away from it.

There will be some apprehension and nervousness but there will also be plenty of goodwill that will create positive energy for the players to feed off – something that might just add a little kick to the team’s performance.

When you read that almost €2million has been spent on funding the capital's inter-county teams this year, close to €500,000 more than Cork spent in their drive to All-Ireland senior and minor finals in 2010, it’s quite clear the price of success doesn't come cheaply.

For Gilroy, though, what this means is that neither he or his team will be left wanting for any assistance that would provide them with that extra impetus in the run-up to the game.

Earlier this week I spent some time in Kerry and it always amazes me, particularly outside the capital, the amount of GAA folk who will recognise the face, probably more from TG4

than All-Ireland Gold, and stop for a chat on football. Most will tell you that outside of their own native county, they like to see the Dubs do well.

Over the past number of years a lot of these conversations have consisted of people saying how they would love to see Dublin win an All-Ireland and how important

this success would be, not only for the GAA in general but also in the battle for hearts and minds for sport in the capital.

There is no doubt that Dublin’s lack of All-Ireland final appearances and the success of Leinster rugby, for example, has cost the GAA players in Dublin.

Leinster’s recent Heineken Cup truimphs have given rugby in the capital a new fan-base and has

opened doors for them them into what would have been traditional GAA strongholds.

Interestingly, on a visit to Dingle to meet up with an old school friend of mine in Muiris Dan's bar (a pub he

co-owns with five-time All-Ireland winner Tommy Griffin), it’s clear to see that GAA is still top of the agenda in the Kingdom and that All-Ireland Sunday is a yearly expectation and not an annual wish.

Funnily enough, though, aside from the stray Dub, there weren't too many in the Kingdom who reckoned that it would be more beneficial to the GAA for Dublin to lift Sam Sunday week.

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