Saturday 23 March 2019

Story of a summer

2002, the year Ray Cosgrove took the capital by storm

It was an electric summer for Irish sport. Ireland (sans Roy Keane) were taking on the world in Korea and Japan. And the Boys in Blue were back - serious Championship contenders for the first time in seven years. Ray Cosgrove was at the centre of it all.

The Kilmacud Crokes man won an All-Star for his performances that season. He scored 6-23 and celebrated his goals by running in front of Hill 16 with his arms held aloft - an act arguably more suited to a World Cup pitch than a Gaelic Football field.

"Celebrating wasn't a preplanned thing," says Cosgrove. "The Hill was going bananas. A childhood dream was coming through. It was just spontaneous. Sometimes I look back and think 'what was I at!' It was fairytale stuff."

Cosgrove first joined the Dublin panel in 1996 but had to wait until 1999 before making his Championship debut in the Leinster final defeat to Meath. His debut was an anti-climax. He was subbed on only to be summoned back to the bench later in the game. He then fell out of favour under Tommy Carr, before clubmate Tommy Lyons brought him in from the cold three years later and Cosgrove repaid him with a stunning campaign.

"Tommy Lyons showed a lot of faith in me throughout the League. He said 'regardless of how you are playing we are going to stick with you'. He took a chance on me. I would like to think I repaid him throughout 2002.

"What happened in 1999 was disappointing. I didn't get to the pace of the game and it bypassed me. That was a big disappointment. So the 2002 Meath game was huge for me. Dublin players are always judged by how they do against Meath, particularly in those days. So it was very sweet to score 2-3."

Ultimately 2002 ended in heartbreaking circumstances for Cosgrove and Dublin when his last-gasp free to force a replay with Armagh in the All-Ireland semi-final struck the post. He says the memories he retains of that time are positive in spite of that game.

"I scored 0-6 that day. That's how I remember the game. But I know I will always be remembered for hitting the post at the end. I do keep good memories from that time. But it is tinted with bad memories. The good days far out-weigh the bad ones."

Cosgrove retired from inter-county football in 2008 after a Division 2 league final defeat to Westmeath.

"I knew it was over once I got on the team bus after that game. It was the right time to pack it in. I rang Pillar the following day and told him and he was understanding.

"Not everyone gets to go out on a high like Henry Shefflin or Brian O'Driscoll. I went out on a low ebb but with plenty of good memories."

Today, Cosgrove is part of ex-teammate Johnny Magee's management team in Wicklow. He is preparing for yet another tough battle with the Royals

"The League didn't go as well as we would have liked. But preparation is going well. We have a few challenge games organised which will give us a good indication of where we are at. We are looking forward to getting down to Navan on July 14th."

It is safe to say that every Dub will be cheering Cosgrove on once again.

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