Dublin hold on to break Mayo hearts again
On a stunning autumn day in Croke Park the local boys finished the season as they started
This, now, is Jim Gavin’s Dublin. Catch them if you can. All year long the metropolitans have thrilled their fan base with an all-out attacking game that was both a riposte to the caution and calculation of the modern game and a salute to the dashing splendour of the Kevin Heffernan era.
Yesterday’s deliverance of Dublin’s 24th All-Ireland title was the perfect way to mark the year in which Heffo, godfather of the city game, died.
On a stunning autumn day in Croke Park the local boys finished the season as they started, running all day and breaking hearts with goals. The pub talk beforehand was of a free-flowing classic. Instead the speed merchants and attackers on both sides ran down dark alleys and the athletes began to fall like flies.
The Dubs were a cobbled-up thing for the last 15 minutes, all out of substitutes and playing with Eoghan O’Gara on one leg and a dazed Rory O’Carroll, who was seeing stars after thundering into Enda Varley. “We were runnin’ out of crutches and bandages in the dressing room there,” gasped Paul Flynn. “It was some game.”
So, after a summer of irresistible and total attack, the final 10 minutes were a matter of holding on for Dublin. “We had a lot of injuries out on the field and showed great heart and great resolve to never give in,” said Gavin, who once again managed to sit through the madness like a man observing the ducks on the pond in St Stephen’s Green on a sleepy Sunday morning. Pure serenity.
Reunion with Sam
The final score was 2-12 to 1-14. It left Mayo just a single point and 63 years from a reunion with the Sam Maguire. This latest cruelty means they have lost the All-Ireland final every way imaginable. The end result was a familiar emptiness for their ever faithful.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, wearing his lucky tie of green and red, strolled up Jones’s Road and mingled with supporters. This was to be the magical day. The Mayo minor team opened the bill with a 2-13 to 1-13 win over Tyrone, the county’s first minor All-Ireland since 1985. For a fleeting moment the day seemed rigged by the heavens. But the old doubts and ghosts and quietness returned in the big match. The sight of another Mayo team shattered and waiting for the condolences from another winning captain – the old familiar sting – is becoming unbearable.
“You know Mayo . . . ah. they are a great team,” said Paul Flynn with genuine empathy. “And part of me feels sorry for the fact that they deserve to win an All-Ireland. You know, I am glad today was our day but they will be back for sure.”
Perhaps. But this was Dublin’s year. They began the season by shooting the lights out and did not stop.