Hopeful Dublin must not believe the hype
TWO words, almost identical save for one distinguishing letter, yet their meanings in an All-Ireland context are poles apart. One is hope. The other? Hype.
For Dublin footballers in the 21st century, it has been a case of hope springs eternal -- almost literally, because it feels like an eternity since Pat O'Neill's men finally stumbled across the All-Ireland line, after several tantalising close shaves, in 1995.
For much of the next 16 years, it was also a case of hype springs infernal punishment upon the Dubs. They allowed themselves to live the dream, get sucked in by its beguiling charms: cue disaster, collapse, or just an underwhelming sense of emptiness.
Not now, it seems. Dublin have finally made it back to the All-Ireland stage ... and the city seems curiously becalmed. The dreaded hype has yet to grab us in a headlock. Maybe the people are rightly cautious because it's Kerry. Maybe it's all down to Pat Gilroy, who has constructed a well-grounded panel while shielding them from the worst excesses of rampant supporter expectation.
Maybe it's simply a sign of the times. Fans are more worried about the real world to get totally fixated about a football match. Unless, of course, they are still searching for a golden ticket, in which case that's all they are obsessing about this minute.
Whatever the reason, Dublin appears a pretty calm place this Tuesday and that's no bad thing.
It probably helps that the Sky Blues have been inching towards this All-Ireland moment, via painstaking baby steps, for several years.
It was different in 2002, very different: Dublin had just won their first Leinster title in seven years and, all of a sudden, there was talk of going all the way. Tommy Lyons took a conscious decision to ride the hype rollercoaster; Dublin car flags were all the rage, the city centre was bedecked in blue, and the manager waxed lyric about the "best gig in town".
As Ray Cosgrove said: "We were reacting to the crowd all the time. There were huge numbers for all our games. A goal would go in and we'd gain so much confidence, but the hype was an animal. You couldn't control it."
Truth is, you never fully can. The media has been full of the 'dream' final over the past fortnight, but even that won't compare to the saturation coverage of the next five days. In Kerry they don't do hype -- although it helps when All-Ireland appearances occur almost as frequently as the Rose of Tralee.
For Dublin, this is all very new but the secret must surely lie in preparing for Sunday as if it were any other match -- while realising, deep down, that it isn't. Let their fans embrace the hype: the players must save all their mental strength and energy for those precious 90 minutes between 3.30 and 5pm.