This Dublin side simply refuses to let one slip — they just find a way

Five titles in seven years. Four of them after finals won on the slimmest of scorelines, the other by the positively luxurious margin of three points. The instinct is to look at yesterday’s events through the prism of Mayo’s heartache but this is a story dictated by Dublin.
This Dublin side simply refuses to let one slip — they just find a way

Maybe it’s not that Mayo are destined to go without their All-Ireland so much as the fact that this Dublin side simply refuses to let one slip. Rampant summer after summer, they steel themselves for the mother of all tasks each September and they find a way.

Somehow. Anyhow.

The sides drew level 11 times here. Mayo led for two minutes, then four, then 11. And that was just in the first-half. They took another lead shortly after the break that was blown out inside 60 seconds. Then they got their noses in front for three minutes and then another six.

What does that tell us about Dublin?

There’s a great scene in the movie ‘Platoon’... Actually, there’s loads of great scenes, but one is apposite here. It comes after the principled Sergeant Elias has been shot and left for dead by the villainous Sergeant Barnes and the aggrieved grunts are discussing their riposte.

Talk of an eye for an eye abounds until one of them pipes up. “Barnes has been shot seven times and he ain’t dead. Does that mean anything to you, huh? Barnes ain’t meant to die! The only thing that can kill Barnes is Barnes.”

The longer this Dublin team keeps winning the stronger the sensation that the only thing that can stop their remorseless assault on the history books is the Dubs themselves. The bad news for everyone else is that there’s no sign of that happening.

They claimed a three-in-a-row yesterday, remember. And 12 of them were collecting their fifth All-Ireland senior medals. That’s the sort of haul that, until this, was the reserve for footballers with Kerry accents.

This is the sort of ground these Dublin boys are breaking.

And they do it all with ne’er a hint of the job being done.

Jim Gavin epitomises that. The Dublin manager has for the most part been an automaton at the wheel. A driver of this team who speaks in public with all the emotion of a satnav but one who time and again finds the right route to the destination.

When Dean Rock stepped up to take that winning kick late yesterday afternoon the only concession to the drama from Gavin was a slight shift forward in his seat. There was no pumped fist, no cracking smile. Not even when the final whistle went.

It’s not that the man doesn’t do emotion. He hugged and smiled his way through the gathering on the pitch between that and the collection of the cup but even here there was a sense that it was business first and foremost on his mind.

Seconds after embracing Rock, Gavin made his way over to Evan Comerford. The sub keeper, and the man between the sticks for the U21s this year, the youngster found himself engaged in conversation by the boss for much longer than Rock had.

It felt like the first piece of work for 2018 was being conducted right there on the pitch, even as little kids rolled around in the golden glitter and the Mayo players were making for the dressing room and another homecoming they could all do without.

Stephen Cluxton echoed that vibe later on.

The first footballer to captain four All-Ireland winning teams, he knew a few good times when he started with Dublin, then a heap of bad ones before the current shift in momentum gathered pace to the point where success is breeding success, He’s not interested in looking back at that. Any of it.

“Putting on the jersey, you appreciate every day you get to do that. It’s not so much victories and defeat. The players I hold in high regard. Those that don’t have All-Ireland medals I still hold them in high regard. I’ve learned a lot from them. “I’ve learned a lot from playing with different players.

“This group of lads really want to win it. That’s what we saw today. I’m just holding onto my jersey. I have to chat with this man here, see if he wants me for next year. Once January comes around I’m going to be battling against another goalkeeper to try and win the jersey. That’s just the way it is.”

Cluxton is 35 now and he’ll be 36 come the O’Byrne Cup next January. He has 22 major honours accumulated between league, provincial and All-Ireland, not to mention five All Stars, but the prospect of him calling time on it all is as remote as ever.

Asked here how much longer he would give, he looked at his manager and smiled: “Until he gets rid of me, I suppose.” Why would he stop now? Why would any of them?

Some, like Con O’Callaghan who scored a wonder goal and claimed his first Celtic Cross yesterday, are only getting started. Another healthy seed deposited in the most fertile of soil. Another investment in a future that shows no sign of a reduced yield.

“I thought he was very composed,” said Gavin. It was a clinical execution. It’s what we see in training on a regular basis from Con. We see it with his club in Cuala as well. In both codes he’s been outstanding for club and county this year. He played his part, put in a big shift and Niall Scully came in to replace him at the back end of the game and again Niall did very well when he came on. He got some great possession for us.”

And on it goes.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up