It is impossible to think that 5,000 people would have filed into Parnell Park for a pre-season friendly on a bitterly cold January night had the man they called Heffo not done what he did in those same parts 40 years ago.
It was in the Donnycarney ground where the foundations for the famed Dublin revival of the 1970s were laid and both Dublin and Kildare honoured the man with a level of entertainment that belied the calendar and gloopy conditions underfoot.
“We mentioned inside before the game the virtues that Kevin brought to the game of football,” said Dublin manager Jim Gavin.
“He was a visionary, a strategist and those guys stand on his shoulders. Certainly I, and the guys there, wouldn’t be where we are in Dublin GAA without the vision of Kevin Heffernan.”
It was merely a quirk of fate that no St Vincent’s players were on view. Ger Brennan was slated to start at centre-back but was one of 10 men to lose his slot after the spate of changes in which both managers indulged.
It didn’t make for an attractive opening. Spillages aplenty corroded the early exchanges but the pace was fast and furious, the intensity a number of degrees beyond what was expected, and the quality soon attuned itself to the requirements.
Sub-plots abounded and Gavin would have been particularly encouraged by the displays of the maturing Paddy Andrews and young Paul Mannion up front although it was Jack McCaffrey’s blinding pace at wing-back which most often caught the eye.
There was even more to harvest from the evening for Kieran McGeeney and not just a win and a trophy which owed something to the fact that his side had returned to training over a month earlier than their opponents.
The ending said as much.
Kildare trailed for the vast majority of the first 80 minutes before Tomas O’Connor exploded to life with a goal and a brace of points at the start of the second extra-time period which finally settled a contest that had hummed with life for its entirety.
“Probably the most pleasing part was we had four U21s on for most of the game and I thought they all acquitted themselves very well,” said McGeeney. “Tom scoring and a lot of positives. It’s early season and it’s O’Byrne Cup. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Not quite. Niall Kelly and Paddy Brophy were still playing minor football last season and yet they claimed five points from play and never looked out of their depth while older colleagues stood out too.
Johnny Doyle was, well, Johnny Doyle while Ollie Lyons saw Bernard Brogan to the sideline long before the end of normal time after keeping the former Footballer of the Year scoreless from play. Morsels maybe but of the type that encourage optimism.
There were few black spots but the most obvious arrived at the end of business when Denis Bastick was shown a straight red card for a blatant punch at Padraig O’Neill and one which will curtail his part in the upcoming League.
The Templeogue man was far from the only culprit in some late scuffles but he was the only one to transgress in such a blatant manner and it didn’t find favour from Gavin who insisted such actions were “not part of my gig” with Dublin.
“There were two of them at it. I suppose the cynical part of the game was kicking in at that stage and frustration got the better of Denis. But there was a blatant foul on one of our guys, which was happening quite regularly and the referee wasn’t doing anything about it. But I’m sure his assessor will look at that.”
Gavin’s observations on the officiating were on the money and it was jarring to see Eddie Kinsella tick players for blatant offences which would see offenders sent to the line for the duration of the game under the proposed new rules.
But that is for another day.
Scorers for Dublin: P Mannion (0-4, 2 frees); MD MacAuley (0-2); P Andrews (0-2); C Costello (0-2); P Hudson (0-2, 1 free); P Quinn (0-1); K McManamon (0-1); B Brogan (0-1 free); S Carthy (0-1); P Burke (0-1).
Scorers for Kildare: T O’Connor (1-2); J Doyle (0-5, 2 frees); P Brophy (0-3); N Kelly (0-2); H McGrillen (0-1); E Bolton (0-1); E O’Flaherty (0-1); P O’Neill (0-1).
DUBLIN: S Supple; D Byrne, T Brady, D Nelson; C Guckian, D Daly, J McCaffrey; MD MacAuley, D Bastick; E O Conghaile, P Mannion, P Quinn; K McManamon, P Andrews, B Brogan.
Subs: C Costello for McManamon (42); D O’Mahony for Bastick (45); P Hudson for Mannion (57); P Burke for Brogan (64); P Quinn for O Conghaile (70); E Lowndes for Guckian (70); MD MacAuley for O’Mahony (86); D Connolly for Hudson (89).
KILDARE: S Connolly; O Lyons, M Foley, H McGrillen; E Bolton, E O’Flaherty, P Kelly; G White, R Kelly; B Flanagan, C McNally, N Kelly; J Doyle, P Brophy, D Flynn.
Subs: T O’Connor for R Kelly (35); J Byrne for Flanagan (49); S Johnston for McNally (53); M Conway for O’Flaherty (62); P O’Neill for White (67); E Doyle for Bolton (78); R Sweeney for N Kelly (89).
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).