herald

Wednesday 23 January 2019

The crying shame of watching Dubs make final history

I've been gorging myself for the past 10 days. Online videos of Stephen Cluxton's free kick. I just can't seem to get enough of them.

The beauty of the circumstances surrounding the climax at Croke Park was that Cluxton's leisurely jog from his goal towards the ball gave plenty of supporters the chance to record a little piece of sporting history.

All you needed was a bit of modern technology and the sort of mindset that tells you to focus your attention on your camera phone, rather than on the unbelievable drama being played out in front of your eyes.

My favourite is taken from Hill 16, near the front, more or less in line with Cluxton. Ball sails over the bar. Bedlam.

Soon after, the full-time whistle blows. Pandemonium. Amid the madness, our intrepid cameraman shows admirable composure to hold the camera steady so he can capture the uncontrollable sobbing of one of his pals. This man's flat out denial that he's crying is fooling nobody.



Three things strike me watching this clip: Firstly, the free is awarded in a more difficult position than I remember it from my vantage point in the Hogan Stand.

Secondly, the match ends only 16 seconds after the point is scored. It seemed to me, at the time, to be more like a minute. Thirdly, it's okay to cry when your county has won the All-Ireland for the first time in 16 years ... let it all out big guy.

In his book, The Perfect 10, Richard Williams profiles some of the greatest playmakers in soccer history.

During a chapter devoted to Zinedine Zidane, Williams recalls, in vivid detail, witnessing one of Zidane's most spectacular feats: the match-winning volley for Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final at Hampden Park.

With an absence of television monitors in the press box that night, Williams makes a conscious decision to avoid ever seeing the goal replayed on TV.

He cites Zidane's former international team-mate Frank Leboeuf, who never watched replays of important matches in which he had been involved because he wanted to "preserve the integrity of his memories, which would be compromised if someone else's images ... were imposed on them".

I now know what Leboeuf means. A little more than a week has passed since I witnessed one of the great moments of Irish sport and already my memory has been compromised.

This concerns me. What will my mind conjure up a year from now when I think of those incredible seconds at Croker? Or five years from now? What will I end up telling the grandkids?

"Ah yeah, Cluxton's kick, I remember it well. I was on the Hill, right in the thick of it. Didn't your grand-uncle Davy take a video of me, and me bawling my eyes out? I didn't live that one down for a while."

Maybe the next time I'm lucky enough to be present for an historic moment, I'll show the sort of self-restraint required to spend the rest of my life steering clear of watching it again. In the meantime, I've just found a brilliant clip of the free taken from the Cusack Stand side ...

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