There are those in Dublin and Kerry who won’t have spent a waking hour these last two and a half weeks without thinking about the five in a row.
Michael Darragh Macauley isn’t one of them. Football for him is something to be played, not watched — he didn’t see the Kerry-Tyrone game — or spoken about in depth at least publicly. In his opinion, five is only a number.
“I’ve been hearing a different number every year for the last number of years. I believe this number is… five, is it? We had this exact same conversation three years ago and you said, ‘You’ll never do two. Two, how will you deal with the pressure of two?’ Then it was, ‘Oh, three, three...’ It is what it is. It’s another number.”
Macauley isn’t trying to be smart. Mischievous perhaps.
Usually an engaging character, the 33-year-old is warier here. By the end, his own assessment of his offerings is frank.
“This is a horrendous interview, do you know that?” he tells journalists within earshot of Dublin senior football media manager Seamus McCormack.
It’s actually one of the worst I’ve ever done, he’ll (McCormack) be delighted with it. Ask me about football. Spice it up.
Some of the dialogue between him and his interviewers at the Dublin pre-final press afternoon offers some insight into his attitude:
Are you aware of ‘82 and history?
Seamus Darby? Yeah, I’m aware. Is this like a pop quiz on GAA? Yeah, obviously I’m aware. Yeah, I’m aware, what else have you got?
In your day job (with the Dublin North East Inner City programme), you’re going to be talking about the final every day whether you like it or not?
Oh, I’m well aware of that, yeah.
It doesn’t bother you?
Eh, no, no. We’re well used to it, you know, we just kind of embrace it. There are certain places you’ll go and you’ll speak about it all the time and there are certain places you won’t. There’s a great buzz around the place, in around town, of course there is. There’s taxi men beeping you and all that sort of craic when you’re parked in traffic. It’s good fun and it won’t last forever so it’s all good.
When the talk of home advantage and funding comes up...
You know I’m useless at these questions.
Does it register with you or is it just noise?
I’m useless at it. No, it makes no odds to me. No. I just don’t engage with it.
It’s not worth your time?
I just don’t engage with it. I just play football. That’s the buzz.
The only time Macauley turns serious is about making this final count. He’s not saying it’s his last but he accepts there aren’t many left for him.
“I know it’s a cliché but look at my fellow soldiers, Paul Flynn and countless others now who have gone on and they’d love to be in this position. So it definitely won’t last forever. We’re in a nice spot now, just building up to another All-Ireland final.
I didn’t think I’d be playing in my seventh All-Ireland final in the last decade so it’s a decent innings. I definitely have no complaints and I want no regrets (in the build-up) as well.
What does he mean by that?
“What does no regrets mean? I’m just trying to put football first at the moment… yeah, I’m trying not to sound clichéd but I just want to walk off the pitch happy on September 1.”
And Kerry? “Kerry are good at football,” he smiles.
Kerry are flying it, they’re putting up serious scores at the moment. And it should make for a very interesting final.
All joking aside, he feels Kerry are capable of pulverising a team in a few minutes, as Dublin did to Mayo at the start of the second half of their All-Ireland semi-final.
“It felt good, we were just kind of riding the wave and it happens in every single game. Sometimes maybe not as cleanly as that, but I know for a fact that some time in this match Kerry are going to get a purple patch on us and it’s about how they ride it and how we try to stop it.”