Dublin defender Philly McMahon has come out fighting in the face of All-Ireland final eye-gouging accusations, insisting he didn’t do it and stating he doesn’t ‘give a s**t’ what his critics think.
The 28-year-old corner-back fulfilled a lifetime ambition on Sunday by winning an All-Ireland with Dublin as an influential performer who started all seven of their Championship matches.
But his third Sam Maguire success in total was marred by suggestions of indiscipline in both the drawn All-Ireland semi-final tie with Mayo and in Sunday’s three-point final win over Kerry.
Disciplinary chiefs opted not to pursue McMahon over two separate incidents in the Mayo game involving Aidan O’Shea, his direct opponent; the first an accusation from O’Shea that McMahon head-butted him and the second a fall to the ground that could have been interpreted as a dive. The latest flashpoint came at the tail end of another excellent personal performance on Sunday, which saw McMahon hold Colm Cooper scoreless, when the Ballymun man’s hand appeared to come in contact with the eye area of Kieran Donaghy.
It remains to be seen if the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee pursue McMahon though the player maintained that while it ‘probably did’ look bad on television, it wasn’t deliberate.
Asked if the gouging claim took away from the win, McMahon initially nodded in agreement before sounding a defiant note.
“Yeah, it does, I’m talking to friends and family (about it) when I should be talking about keeping one of the best footballers in decades scoreless,” said McMahon.
“But now I’m talking about something that if I did connect with his face, I didn’t intentionally do it.
“And look, there was loads of incidents on the pitch yesterday but it’s unfortunate that mine always get brought up. But it’s part of the game and I have to accept it.
“If I get all these accusations against me and I win an All-Ireland, I don’t give a s**t, to be honest.”
McMahon, a personal trainer and MMA enthusiast, has previously credited his development as a top defender in recent seasons to the extra aggression he has managed to bring to his game.
Cooper may have felt that McMahon overstepped the mark at times during Dublin’s three-point final win as McMahon confirmed there was a frosty conversation between the pair when it came to the post-match handshake.
“Yeah, there was a little bit of a stand off but we spoke then and I said, ‘listen, this is the way that I play football. This is what you have to do to win a game, I’m going to do what I can to beat you and you’re going to do what you can to beat me’.
“Then he said, ‘well, you know, fair enough’ and we shook hands.”
McMahon performed heroically in the semi-final replay win over Mayo, shackling O’Shea, Mayo’s danger man full-forward, and also contributing 1-2.
He was informed last Friday that he would be marking Cooper in the final.
“I was absolutely delighted,” McMahon said. “It is kind of an honour to be told that you are going to mark one of their key forwards. A man like Colm Cooper is someone I would have high respect for.”
McMahon is proud of his determined style of play and made no apologies for consistently frustrating opponents.
“I have so much respect for defenders, especially Dublin defenders because when we step up and mark our man we look him in the eye and we say, ‘we’re going to war today, me and you, and let’s see who comes out on top’,” said McMahon. “We don’t have seven or eight men in our defence supporting us, we go man on man and we go to war. That’s what I love about the set-up that we have, it really does make you want to be better as a defender.”
McMahon said it was unlikely if such faith would have been placed in him only a year or two back to man mark one of the opposing team’s top players as he did against Kerry.
But he has emerged this year as Dublin’s go to defender in big games and across almost three full matches marking O’Shea and Cooper, he conceded just one point.
“I may be wrong but I don’t think I’ve marked a man who has scored more than a point off me all year,” said the former AIB All-Ireland club finalist.
“So it’s been a successful year, this year. You might get the stats up for the Championship and prove me wrong but I think I’ve generally been nice and tight whoever I’ve been marking.” McMahon gave an insight into the drive behind Dublin’s latest All-Ireland win when he talked about the intensity within training.
“We said this year that the only team that’s going to compete against us is ourselves.
“There’s the As and Bs in training and the second best team in the country this year was our B team.”
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