Tuesday 12 December 2017

Victory was 'one of the special ones'

Philly McMahon of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park
Philly McMahon of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park

TRULY, times have changed.

Not so long ago as to seem vague in the memory, Dublin footballers used talk about an All-Ireland in aspirational terms, the excruciatingly elusive Holy Grail they were, it was desperately hoped, inching way their way towards the top of the mountain to claim.

Now, they're being asked to rank them in terms of satisfaction.

"Saturday was for me one of the special ones, given all that surrounded it, such as the 1916 celebrations, this year, and then those two battles we had with Mayo," says Philly McMahon.

The Ballymun defender is a useful spokesman in these matters.

Firstly, he is an articulate, free-thinking sort and secondly, he's been there for each of Dublin's four All-Irelands in the past six years.

"I'm sure every other county in the country wanted to see a new county winning the All-Ireland," he acknowledged.

"So we had all that against us, and showed great character to come through."

The fourth in six, the back-to-back - these statistics will ensure Dublin's greatness, regardless of what comes next.

A fact that just proves that everything is made right by winning.

This time two weeks ago, Dublin were being examined under a wholly darker light.


They were, it was noted, rattled physically by Mayo in the drawn game.

And perhaps some of their yet-to-be-cannonised legends were running out of road a little sooner than we had expected.

"We came back to the Gibson Hotel after the drawn game, and none of us wanted to be there," McMahon recalls.

"We just wanted to go home and recover and prepare the body for the next day."

"All the players looked in the mirror, instead of looking out the window. We were lucky to have another chance, and couldn't wait to get going again."

We've yet to be enlightened as to the type of wood used to light a fire under the Dublin team over the past fortnight but McMahon was adamant that it all came from the top.

"The management team were immense over the last two weeks," he stressed.

"We really noticed they upped their game, so we had to up our game for them.

"They try to support us in every way, and that creates the environment we're in, and the talk that goes on around that environment, and that helped us massively."

"I think the one thing we didn't do well in the drawn game was our intensity level, our tackling, was poor, and the physicality that we really are (known) for was poor," he added.

"So if we got that, then complacency wouldn't be there, especially from the forwards. You saw that on Saturday with the tackles they put in, and that's what we missed the first day."

Their ever-tried, ever-failed vanquished All-Ireland final opponents have been the target for much sympathy since Saturday evening, something McMahon insisted he shared with a number of people.

"Look at Jonny Cooper, playing in an All-Ireland final - gets a black card early on, and that's his final over, after preparing all year. And playing brilliant all year," he pointed out.

"I wouldn't be happy with that anyway.

"For Mayo, Cillian O'Connor scored the equaliser the first day," he added, "and if he'd done it on Saturday, would have been a hero."

Instead, Dublin lived to write the tale of their own greatness.

That possibly the defining victory of their era came during the year of the 1916 Centenary celebrations was, McMahon confirmed, a bonus.

"There's not many people, apart from these Dublin players, who can say have 1916 on the back of their All-Ireland medal."

"My father is from Belfast so there's a big of a connection there, but it's just about having that 1916 on the medal."

And the personal significance of back-to-back Sam Maguires?

"It's different now that you've done it, because you can say it," he explained.

"It's not something you speak about before. It's something we've been trying to do, but now that we've won it, it's an amazing feeling."

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