SO I’M SITTING in the Davin Stand for the replay of Tyrone and Dublin in the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-finals.
The two seats in front of me are occupied by a father, and his son in his mid-20s. The stadium erupts as Peter Canavan, the Tyrone talisman, the most high-profile player of the previous 10 years, is brought on.
The father turns to his son and asks him – “who is that?” To which the son replies – “That’s Peter Canavan dad, remember he was the guy who scored all those points against us in 1995.”
I tell this story not to perpetuate the tired old stereotype of the ill-informed Dublin fan (okay, well maybe I did, a little) – what I really love about it was the implication that everything he did between 1995 and 2005 (when Tyrone didn’t play Dublin in the championship) didn’t matter. He played against Dublin, he disappeared off the radar for 10 years, and then he returned to take his place in the limelight, as far as my friend here was concerned.
The fact remains that for many people in this country, Gaelic football (or ‘the gah’, if you absolutely must) only exists when Dublin are good at it. It would be great if all those people were as excited last year for Cork-Down as they are this year for Kerry-Dublin in next Sunday’s All-Ireland football final – but that’s not how it is.
For some reason these fly-by-nights rub some of us ‘lifers’ up the wrong way… but I love the fact that I went into a pub in town over the weekend and a man I have never heard talk about the GAA in my life was urgently asking me whether the Dubs are going to do it. He was in for a pint after going to the Leinster game, and will spend the winter in the RDS… but this week, the gah was the big story.
I was home in Galway this weekend, and the common refrain was – “are they gone mad for tickets in Dublin scan*?” And there’s no doubt there’s a big squeeze on at the moment, but a week after an All-Ireland hurling final only barely sold out, we’re hardly going to complain about that are we?
(* everyone from my home club of Milltown is called ‘scan’, everyone from Tuam is a ‘sham’, and everyone from Dunmore, which is six miles from both Tuam and Milltown, is a ‘shaft’. Imagine it as a replacement for buddy, or mate – so every conversation begins with “Well scan.” Don’t ask… it’s more fun that way.)
As for the game itself – calling it at this remove is tough, but I get the impression Kerry have the bit between their teeth this year. My common refrain to everyone who’s asked, including the Leinster fan in the Long Hall on Friday night, was Kerry by two. But I think we have every right to expect a great game. The Dubs will set up defensively, no doubt about that, but both teams have weaknesses at the back and I think it will be a day for forwards.
Back in style
I’m delighted to hear that Paul Galvin looks set to retake his place but all the indications are that he will come in for Donnacha Walsh, which is really tough luck for him. If that’s how it works out, Donnacha Walsh will have played every game this year, only to be dropped for the All-Ireland final… and that’s happened him once before, in 2009.
Harsh first time around, so I can only imagine what it would feel like this time; if it happens, of course.
Diarmuid Connolly’s return from suspension is a big plus for Dublin obviously, and will take some of the pressure off Bernard Brogan certainly, but he will be operating under the microscope now. His last two games have certainly been remarkable – seven points from play in a magisterial performance against Tyrone, and then nerves, frustration and a red card against Donegal – but this is the very biggest stage.
Which one of those two extremes he is closest to could well decide this final.
Oh and for those of you joining us late – Colm Cooper is the guy with the red hair. Cheap shots aside though; enjoy it folks.
- This week Murph was – reminded of quite a few people who texted into the show (that’s the award-winning “Off The Ball”, weeknights 7-10pm on Newstalk 106-108fm by the way!!) asking me if Galway GAA has ever been lower after two rather lame exits by our senior hurling and football teams. Well they WERE lame exits, but there are 6 major All-Ireland titles to play for – minor, u-21 and senior, in hurling and football – and Galway have won three of them. So rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated. On Twitter I would probably throw in a #smugbastard at this juncture…