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Hard work paid off, says Henry

DAVID HENRY was giving Cheshire cats a good run for their money on Saturday evening and it was hard to begrudge the Dublin captain his beaming smile after such a seminal afternoon.

Back in 2002, the man from Raheny had just been handed his pass onto the senior panel and he watched from the bench that summer as Tommy Lyons’ side took care of Donegal after a quarter-final replay.

The future promised much – and delivered plenty within the province – but the trail ran cold thereafter. Derry were the only side from outside Leinster to fall to the Dubs in the All-Ireland series in the years that followed.

That barren spell ended in spectacular fashion on Saturday. For men like Henry, Stephen Cluxton, Barry Cahill, Bryan Cullen and Alan Brogan, it was payback for all those traumatic days against the likes of Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone.

"It’s very satisfying," was Henry’s understated summation. "All the work we have done this year in particular has been geared towards getting towards the level of the big three – Kerry, Tyrone and Cork.

"An All-Ireland quarter-final was where we felt we had a good chance of getting to and then getting over that hurdle was very important. I wouldn’t be mad into using phrases like psychological barriers.

"The big thing is we are working hard as a team. You have the odd bit of individual talent but the rest of us will work as hard for each other as we can. When you do that, you give yourself a great chance."

Having joined the panel in 2006, Bernard Brogan hasn’t suffered as many heartbreaks as Henry, but even he was able to dissect this win and come to the conclusion that it had shrugged monkeys emphatically from their backs.

"We have been criticised for individuals playing on their own," said the forward. "You saw out there that the team is working together for once. I think coming into the game as underdogs stood a lot to us.

"We have been priced up for the last couple of years and we have been stuffed because of it. I don’t know if it got into our heads or something."

And he believes their ejection from the Leinster championship by Meath has work wonders.

"Coming in through the qualifiers was great. We got a few games under our belt. We were never hot favourites. We went about our work and were getting momentum. Four games in a row is huge."

If there was a slice of Saturday’s game that summed up the difference between the new model Dubs and their predecessors it was the fact that they won comfortably despite being swamped in the middle third of the game.

Tyrone outscored the Leinster side by 12 points to four from the 23rd minute to the 51st and yet it was the perennially brittle boys in blue who pulled through – comfortably – when the game entered its death throes.

"We just kept trying to do the same things," said Henry after they closed the tie out with 1-2.

"We didn’t panic or change an awful lot. We kept our composure, particularly at the back.

"We kept things fairly tight. There might have been a bit of panic other days and we might have started giving away frees or losing our shape but we kept to our plan and it worked."

With the weekend proving to be such a graveyard for the country’s modern aristocrats, Dublin’s market value has now flipped from one of devalued currency to gold standard but Henry is too old a dog to get dragged into all that.

"Other people will probably say that but enough of us have played in All-Ireland semi-finals before.

"I have been involved in two or three of them and you are a long way from an All-Ireland.

We’re under no illusions. Trying to get back to the level of that performance again is going to be a big ask for us."