Dubs are both hosts and participants, building on a proud history
The media hype, Hill 16 mania and all the fanfare that surrounds the Dublin Gaelic football team began in earnest in the 1950s
It had an added momentum because Dublin were contenders and hosts in the same city that had witnessed iconic historic events the GAA had been associated with, including the funeral of Parnell in 1891; Gaelic Sunday in 1918 when the GAA defied a British government ban on the playing of Gaelic games; and the massacre in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday in 1920.
The sense of all roads and railway lines leading to Dublin was, and still is, paramount. As a Dub following the fortunes of its football team, it is a journey of pride to walk up O’Connell Street, on to Gardiner Street, past the Hill 16 pub, across Mountjoy Square – where the rival supporters spill out of buses – and down to the throng outside Gill’s pub on the corner of Jones’ Road.
The close-knit inner city communities go to great lengths to ensure that the paths to Croke Park are awash with blue.
Jovial and witty
So much has happened to the city and its complexion since the 1970s, but the sense of solidarity with the team has not only remained but multiplied, given added momentum by the Jason Sherlock mania of the 1990s, the influx of non-nationals, the surge in the popularity of womens’ football, respect for the astonishing levels of fitness on display, and the dignity and mental reserves as represented by Stephen Cluxton, who walked calmly from his goal in 2011 to score the winning point.
As supporters, Dubs are jovial and witty; they also demand much of their team and the banter and exasperated rants are often hilarious. There is something delightful in watching and listening to a nicotine- stained overweight veteran Dub, his belly full of chips and porter, and bursting out of a jersey that like himself has seen better days, berate a sleek, ultra-trained and chiselled young Dublin player for being a “lazy little fu**kin bo**ix”.
Most tirades are wittier than they are nasty, and everyone is encouraged to join in; democracy reigns on Hill 16.
But I have a treacherous confession to make. For all the genuine “Up the Dubs” sentiment, I believe this weekend may be gratifying even if the Dubs lose. If Mayo win, it is likely a striking image of a very old Mayo supporter will appear, with tears of relief and release streaming down his or her face after a 62-year wait. Even the most ardent Dub devastated by defeat will have to have the hardest of hearts not to be moved by that.
For all the fallow periods, Dubs do not know the meaning of the long, long wait in the way that Mayo does.