Former Hill hero David Hickey believes this Dublin squad is special in more ways than one...
‘STILL hanging on,” laughs David Hickey. He’s referring to this Dublin team as a bandwagon. A selector with Pat Gilroy, he’s been part of the Dublin medical team under Jim Gavin along with fellow doctors Ciaran O’Malley and Dermot Smith.
“The biggest in the country,” he chuckles.
When Gilroy picked up the phone to him at the end of 2009, there was little hesitation in answering in the affirmative. “I don’t know why I was asked back but I came back because I knew there were a group of fellas that were going to win a lot.”
Hickey isn’t one to shy away from lavishing praise on them. Joe Brolly, with whom Hickey has led the organ donation drive in recent years, claimed his friend told him in 2013 Dublin would win five consecutive All-Irelands. Hickey is not in a position to dispute that.
“I’ve seen them develop and from the very start, 2010 on, these guys were going to be around for a long time. I expected them to do the five-in-a-row back then and in some ways they could have been going for six-in-a-row now with a bit of luck.
“They are a special group of players. They’re very talented and very committed to the cause. Most of all, they have tremendous respect for every team they play. It doesn’t matter who it is, the same amount of work and preparation is put in by Jim Gavin and the team. There’s no such thing as taking anyone for granted. When they go on the field, they give 100% from start to finish.”
Hickey’s son, David Jnr, is friendly with a lot of the players, something his father only too happily encourages. “If you were travelling with that team and you were being roomed off, you wouldn’t mind rooming with any of them. They’re good fun, they know how serious the cause is, they have respect for the jersey and what it means. You know, you’re not allowed to act the b***** out of the street if you feel like it because you’re a Dublin footballer. These guys are very aware of the honour and the legacy they have playing for Dublin.
“Pat Gilroy and Jim Galvin have developed an exemplary group of Corinthian athletes, a credit to the code.”
Words to the contrary upset Hickey. Dublin don’t initiate trouble, he maintains.
“I tell you one thing: I get very p***ed off with the lazy journalism that the Dublin team have a disciplinary problem. They are probably 20 points better than Donegal in actual play and we end up with three guys sent off at the end of that game. You have to ask yourself ‘what’s wrong here?’
“Diarmuid Connolly and Eoghan O’Gara... the provocation... and when you have county managers actually saying ‘yes, we went out to get under Connolly’s skin because we know he will react eventually’ and you have all the other big shots like that guy from Meath (Colm) O’Rourke saying ‘grow up and live with it’. The problem is if you do try and grow up and live with it like we did in the old days, you get sent off. It’s a one-way bloody thing and you’re not allowed to react and then you’re off. The thing is that’s the other team’s last game in the championship; our guys have the next game to worry about.”
He is absolutely certain it won’t be Dublin testing the boundaries of fair play tomorrow afternoon. “Hopefully, it’s an open, clean game and there’s no cynicism and nobody tries to get players sent off. It certainly won’t be coming from our side because we have no interest in that sort of thing. Quite frankly, we’ve no need for it either because if any team wants to go toe-to-toe with us - and they should all be prepared to go toe-to-toe - we’ll beat them. That Dublin team are probably the most disciplined team to ever play Gaelic football. If I was getting messed around like Diarmuid Connolly is being messed around, I wouldn’t have to take care of it; one of the other guys would. Settle it out of court, so to speak.”
Hickey can’t help but think of his old marker and buddy Páidí Ó Sé this week and what might he think of how Dublin and Kerry have reversed roles since his passing in 2012. “We have got ourselves in the sort of position Kerry used to be in and it’s been through hard work, I think. You’d seldom find a group of 30 footballers with their technical ability. If you look at Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello and Eoghan O’Gara not getting into a starting team – and you’ve a young fella called Con O’Callaghan there as well – we’re in a good position at the moment.”
Emulating the Kerry team of 2006/’07 and putting back-to-back All-Ireland titles together mightn’t be anything close to five or six-in-a-row as Hickey prophesised but it’s a start, he says. “Even Barcelona haven’t achieved it and they would be the team I’d be comparing this Dublin team with in terms of ethos and ‘més que un club’ (more than a club). That’s Dublin football. These guys go to hospitals, they look after children, they are an incredible bunch of lads.
“Some guys have their day, some guys don’t but the effort put in by everyone on that field will be 100% and I have no doubt that will be enough for Dublin, if they get a reasonable number of the breaks, to beat anyone.”
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