Plotting from behind enemy lines

Let Ryan O’Dwyer paint you a picture.

The night of Dublin’s Leinster semi-final win over Galway, a game which saw the forward sent-off despite receiving 35 stitches to his ear, he received a picture message on his phone.

The sender? One Seamus Foley, proprietor of O’Dwyer’s local Foley’s in his home town. The contents?

A poster of the Dublin team hanging up in the pub with a small red card affixed beside O’Dwyer’s mug.

“I was like ‘My feelings are hurt anyway with half an ear but thanks for that, ya b****x ya!’” laughed O’Dwyer.

“It’d tell you how they’ve got no feelings there at all.”

Ah but O’Dwyer is only jesting. They do have sentiments in west Tipperary. Isn’t their man’s jersey from this year’s league final win over Kilkenny hanging up on the wall of Foley’s as well?

Just don’t ask his fellow town folk to take sides with the county he’s representing this week.

O’Dwyer wouldn’t expect them to but he senses there’s a bit of pity among Cashel people for him and his Dublin team-mates as they face the All-Ireland champions.

“It’s seldom I get there but the week before the Limerick game I was down for two weekends in a row and there was a real feel-good factor around the place.

“People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Jesus, if you get over Limerick you’ll have some match in the next round’.

“Even at home, people are giving us (Dublin) no hope.

“One part of it wasn’t a nice feeling, the ‘ye don’t know what’s coming at ye if ye beat Limerick’.

“The other part was everyone well-wishing me. They wanted me to do the best.

“A couple of people were saying to me, ‘If you come up against Tipp, we’ll be supporting Tipp, but we’ll be supporting you as well’.

“They want to see me play well but they don’t want to see Dublin win at the same time. It’s a good bit of banter.”

O’Dwyer’s former team-mates weren’t so hospitable in the league game in Croke Park last February.

Plenty was said to him but he didn’t take offence.

“I’d be a bit insulted if there was nothing said. It’d be like, ‘They were glad to have gotten rid of me then’.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m a Tipp man through and through. I’m a proud Tipperary man and all my family are proud Cashel people.

“My mother and father are still living in Cashel but I moved up to Dublin and am working there.

“I plan on spending the rest of my life here in Dublin and it just happened that (Anthony) Daly came calling so it would have been a stupid move to turn down.“Dublin is the jersey I’m representing now and no matter who is in front of me, whether it’s Cork, Offaly, Kilkenny or Tipp, I want to win.

“You go back to that night in Croker when there were a few verbals.

“In the heat of a match your best friend can turn into your worst enemy but as soon as you’re off the field you’re friends again. You’d nearly want it that way.”

To emphasis his point, O’Dwyer cites an example of how the weekend before last two friends on the Dublin panel had a bust-up in a training game.

“There was a row between two players and they are the best of friends, they travel to training together, but they went at each other. That’s the sign of a healthy set-up, the sign of a healthy team.

“Everyone wants to be playing that leading role.”

O’Dwyer’s jersey lacks the gold band but his idols were Premier ones.

“I hate saying it now but one of my heroes growing up was definitely Conal Bonnar.

“Another hero of mine was Declan Ryan and I’m facing him Sunday.”

He might be the only Tipperary man on the Dublin team but on the line there’s selector Richie Stakelum, the 1987 Tipperary captain who famously declared in Killarney that the county’s Munster famine was over. Alongside him, Paul Ryan and Joey Boland have Tipperary parents as do Shane Ryan and Declan O’Dwyer on the bench.

“There’s a big Tipperary influence,” acknowledged O’Dwyer, “but come Sunday they’ll all be shouting for Dublin.

“At the moment, Dublin is kind of a fairytale story. The majority of counties in Ireland will want to see Dublin doing well so hopefully we’ll have luck on our side.

“As regards the public, if we finish in the morning and that was the end of the year, they would say it’s been a great year for Dublin.

“If you ask the players the same they’d all be p***ed off. I know you could say we won the league, we reached the Leinster final and got to an All-Ireland semi-final which hasn’t been done since 1948 or something but the players wouldn’t be happy. We’d go into depression mode for a couple of weeks.

“If we go by the odds we have no chance but we believe we can win. We have to go into the game believing we can.

“If we go into the game hoping for the best we may as well not show up. We just want to achieve and we don’t want the story to end.”

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