JOHN FOGARTY: Dubs can back up the bravado with brilliance

The divided reaction to David Hickey’s interview carried in this newspaper on Saturday wasn’t unexpected.

Here was a Dublin legend who called the five in a row when the team had not yet won the first of them insisting his county were “unbeatable”. His swagger and bravado is what most in and outside the county would come or at least hope to associate with a successful Dublin side.

Hickey is no Nostradamus and some of his other claims were outlandish. If we didn’t know better we might even say purposely so.

Contrary to his belief, Dublin would not have been able to decimate Mayo in extra-time in last year’s All-Ireland final had Dean Rock missed his free as the game would have likely gone to a replay. His argument that Dublin needs more funding because it has more distractions around football than other counties is weak too.

However, Hickey is an astute judge of the merits of footballers many of whom he worked with or aided from late 2009 to a couple of years ago when he emigrated to Dubai. Nobody so close to the set-up was prepared to publicly gauge the temperature of the water as he was.

Brashness has always been regarded as a Dublin trait even if for a large swathe of the 2000s it couldn’t be substantiated at the business end of the Championship. Sometimes, they were misinterpreted as being assertive. Think back to the march to the Hill performed in the latter years of Paul Caffrey’s reign, which was a psychological trigger more than anything.

The day before the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin, Bryan Cullen gave a two-page interview to the Sunday Independent in conjunction with a sportswear firm he was promoting. Reading the piece on the train to Dublin, a couple of Kerry players couldn’t believe a player, who had struggled to make the team that summer, was speaking to the media. “Typical Dub” was their summation.

It didn’t matter that Cullen said nothing controversial or anything that could be deemed as overconfident; the large photograph of him posing looking into the distance with a massive logo across his chest was enough to prove he was being showy and provided these Kerry players with an angle, especially as Cullen lined out that fateful day of startled earwigs (he was replaced in the 28th minute).

No Dublin player would ever find themselves in such a position now but that’s not entirely the point.

Dublin assertiveness is no longer a perception or an aspiration on their part but a reality. When Jack McCaffrey says “we’ll kill you” as soon as the whitewash is crossed, he and his team-mates can justify it. Such talk would be frowned on by Jim Gavin whose eager media manager guided McCaffrey to the podium to receive his man of the match award in the team hotel last Sunday week.

He, like his predecessor Pat Gilroy, has done exemplary work to remove the pretentious “townie” connotations.

But Dublin don’t do cute. There is a strong vein of humility running through the heart of this group but attempts to play poor mouth look unconvincing and perhaps one of the reasons Gavin has reduced his pre-match appearances. Better Dublin sing it loud to prove it is actually them doing the winning. And they have been doing just that, going back to the Blue Wave strategic plan released after their 2011 All-Ireland success when they called for provincial status by way of funding to realise Dublin want more than they’re already getting.

The words of Dublin secretary John Costello in his annual report these last three Decembers would have rammed that message home.

2015: “We don’t feel we have a sense of entitlement but we think that after a campaign that included a near full-house (81,897) for our All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay against Mayo, the purse strings could have been loosened a little bit at least.”

2016: “I think it would be remiss not to suggest that Dublin were a bit harshly judged in receiving just six awards after a season which saw Jim Gavin’s men go unbeaten through the League, Leinster Championship and All-Ireland Series, to secure back-to-back All-Irelands.”

2017: “I would never apologise to anybody for a single cent of grant aid received in this city.

"Instead, I would congratulate those who have the vision, who plan, who budget and who give of their time to ensure that their club is enhanced or improved — or as is often the case — is assisted in providing the very basic facilities to keep the club going. 

These people are to be lauded — they are doers and achievers. They get out on the pitch and hurl rather than sit on the ditch and carp.”

Rest assured, he will again take aim in three months time while finding it difficult to hide the delight of another job being well done. 

Dublin can’t help it nor should they have to be helped: it’s simply them being them. The Sam Maguire Cup is “a bit of tin” as Gavin says. The jokes, once made in Kerry, about Celtic Crosses being handed over as change are now the currency of the capital. 

All with Hickey’s stamp of approval.

Camogie is hurling’s weak relation

Courtesy of the fine All-Ireland camogie match-day programme on Sunday, the differences between camogie and hurling were laid out over two pages. Twenty-seven of them in total, mostly small ones but contrasts nonetheless.

Those more used to watching hurling this year would have screamed at the number of times genuine challenges like shoulders were made on players in the Cork-Kilkenny game only for Eamon Cassidy to blew a free.

Dubs can back up the bravado with brilliance

 

Yet a deliberate shoulder to shoulder tackle is considered a technical foul in camogie. There is not much fear of the spare hand in camogie as to place it on an opponent’s back is a free.

There are other dissimilarities like camógs being permitted to drop the hurley when playing the ball, flicking the sliotar from an opponent’s hurley and tapping the underside of a rival’s hurley to make them lost control of it but the main ones are associated with the physical nature of camogie or, should we say, the lack thereof.

Reading those rules and it seems nothing like the game Gemma O’Connor is playing.

You asked why it’s so tight between Cork and Kilkenny — I think it’s because we’re so similar, the teams are physical, skilful, the panels show extreme skill, talent, and workrate. That’s why there’s so little between us.

But Cork and Kilkenny are playing a sport where the rulebook doesn’t truly recognise what they are putting into it.

As we mentioned in our reporting of the game, they have outgrown it and the sooner women are allowed to make genuine physical attempts to try and claim the ball off one another the quicker camogie can move on from dreary spectacles like Sunday’s tactical negation.

Camogie can’t expect to thrive as the netball version of hurling.

Individuality inspires teams too

With three points, Ciarán Kilkenny truly broke his All-Ireland final duck at the sixth time of asking last Sunday week. Not that he was going to let on but he didn’t make much of the statistic when it was put to him earlier this year although you suspect he knew all about it.

Seán Cavanagh certainly knew about his failure to score in his first two All-Ireland finals.

In his autobiography with Damian Lawlor, The Obsession, released this week, he articulates just how it gnawed at him and how upset he was dropping an early free short in the 2008 All-Ireland final against Kerry.

“Was I about to have another disappointing All-Ireland final? I’m just never going to score in an All-Ireland final, I thought, as I ran back to my position. Thank God, my chance would come only minutes later when Tommy McGuigan sent the ball into me and I shimmied around Tom O’Sullivan and clipped it over the bar. The relief! Euphoria! A weight was lifted, and from then on I couldn’t miss. It was one of those days.

Dubs can back up the bravado with brilliance

As I ran back to my post, I looked at the three letters I had written on my wrist and in black marker: AIM. All Star. Ireland — I wanted to make the International Rules team. Man of the match. It sounds selfish but there is logic to it.

That there most definitely is. As the PwC All-Stars football nominations are revealed tomorrow, don’t knock the individual motivations that drive a team.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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