A sense of belonging and a need for order are two of the reasons why so many Dublin fringe players remain involved, Ciarán Kilkenny believes.
Despite scoring 2-2 against Roscommon, Eoghan O’Gara didn’t feature for the champions in their All-Ireland semi-final and final wins.
O’Gara may have six Celtic Crosses but he has started just one final.
But for those 2016 games against Mayo, Kevin McManamon has come on in the other five Dublin have contested this decade.
Since 2013 when Jim Gavin took charge, Darren Daly has been a used substitute in all but six of the decider matches. Cormac Costello may only be 24 but has completed his sixth season without yet beginning an All-Ireland final despite some impressive displays coming off the bench.
Kilkenny legend Tommy Walsh knew it was time to retire when he was a substitute. A year after speaking of how the “Killer B’s” team he led kept the Dublin A side sharp to claim an All-Ireland in 2011, Paul Casey retired. But Kilkenny says the bond is so strong in the Dublin camp that nobody wants to leave regardless of the amount of action they’re receiving.
“We’re around each other all the time. You see each other more than you see your families. It’s a massive sacrifice that everyone puts in because we love what we’re doing and we love the people that we’re around, we love what we’re representing. The fact that you’re part of something, you’ve a purpose in your life and it gives a focus to guys in their lives.
I know myself I’ll be a bit lost when it’s all over. It’s a massive part of our lives and you just want to be a part of it as long as you can and that’s my view of it anyway.
It was noticeable last Sunday week just how experienced the Dublin bench was - Bernard Brogan (35 next year), Paul Flynn (33 in 2019), Michael Darragh Macauley (33), McManamon (33), O’Gara (33), Daly (32), Paddy Andrews (31) and Michael Fitzsimons.
Regardless of them being kept in reserve, their value isn’t underappreciated by the starters. “All these guys are exceptional individuals and, as you seen this year, when they got their opportunity they performed very well so we’re very fortunate to have these guys. That’s reassuring for us when we’re out on the field that we can give 100% and then these guys can come on and finish the job and do us proud but at the end of the day it just comes down to whatever the boss man thinks is best for the team.”
The argument that money is fuelling Dublin’s success isn’t backed up by the endurance of Daly and O’Gara and it doesn’t explain other points, stresses Kilkenny. “From my perspective, it’s down to all the hard work that goes on. For example, the influence that Dessie (Farrell) would have had on us. He’s a past player who’s representing his county. He was a massive role model for us, to have someone and the amount of guys that have given back their time at underage level and even at their own clubs. You see our management and people that are involved in our management team and the work that they put on at their own club level.
“It’s down to the goodwill of people that are giving their time to help boys and girls develop as people and also develop as players as well and allow them to grow as individuals.”