Ciaran McDonald. ©INPHO

'I remember saying, 'Oh my God...even on a sinking ship he is doing things like that'

Kerry great Dara Ó Cinnéide is this week’s guest on Behind the Lines.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST on Behind the Lines is Dara Ó Cinnéide, who you’ll know best as Kerry’s All-Ireland-winning captain of 2004. Dara works in the media today, with the Irish Examiner and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, so he was able to give an insight into what it’s like on both sides of the sports media divide. 

If you’re unaware, each episode of Behind the Lines features a lengthy chat with a sportswriter about their career along with their favourite pieces of writing.

The show is exclusive to members of The42, and to subscribe and gain access to a 22-episode back catalogue, go to 

Among the pieces Dara picked was Con Houlihan’s preview of an Ireland/Wales Five Nations match, which offered him the chance to write about Gareth Edwards. Con compared the mercurial Edwards to his steadier colleague John Williams. 

“The career of many a superstar is like a short story”, wrote Con, “but that of Gareth Edwards has the amplitude of a great novel.

And what makes him more likable is his humanity, his fallibility. The graph of his career is not an ever-ascending line. He has had his bad games; indeed he has played disastrous games, one especially so at Lansdowne Road. But it is this vulnerability that is part of his greatness. Whenever Edwards failed, it was because he attempted too much. His colleague John Williams never plays badly – but the great full-back operates within a narrower frame.”

This, says Dara, chimes with the reason he loves Gaelic football. 

“You go to games to see something special.  

“The game we love is talked about in pubs and social settings and at funerals. Lord have mercy on Páidí, the night we buried him a group of ex-Kerry footballers gathered in, and Bomber is a great man for these questions: ‘Your top three footballers of all time? 

“Just to wind him up I’ll always pick contemporary players, I’ll always say that next week’s player will be the best. 

“I said, ‘Maurice Fitzgerald is number one every time and I don’t care after that’. It’s a subjective thing and it goes back to that article by Houlihan. When Maurice Fitzgerald attempted stuff, he failed a lot, as people ho try things always will. 

dara-o-cinneide-and-jack-oconnor-in-the-hotel-lobby-with-the-sam-maguire-2792004 Dara Ó Cinnéide and Jack O'Connor with the Sam Maguire after the 2004 All-Ireland final. INPHO INPHO

“Ciarán McDonald is another I hugely admire. I had the privilege of being on the same pitch playing against him and playing with Maurice Fitzgerald. 

“It was such a privilege to be on the same field as these guys, to see the little nuances of what they can do with a ball. 

“I remember during the 2004 final, standing behind Ciarán McDonald taking a free. Mayo were 10 points down, and I’d like to go back on the video but I felt at the time it was at least 65 yards out.

“I stood behind him, I didn’t try to put him off although I had contested the free, I thought the referee hadn’t made the right decision.

“But McDonald took the ball in his hands, threw it around in his hands for a small while and then, with the outside of his boot, just nailed it. I had a direct line: it was a kick into the Hill and I remember saying, ‘Oh my God…even on a sinking ship he is doing things like that.’ 

“Most players would just give and go, give and go, and move it on as the game is done. But he was such a genius, and Fitzgerald was the same. Their canvas was so wide that nothing was impossible and when it came off, you just said, ‘Wow.’ 

“David Clifford is the example today. That’s what I live for.” 

Listen to the full interview with Dara by subscribing here. 

To listen for free to some highlights from the first 12 episodes of this series, follow this link. 

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