The good, the bad and the Dubs - what we’ll remember about the football championship
You can’t put a year as good as this one all down to what happened in Croker
Michael Darragh Macauley (centre) was Darragh Ó Sé’s player of the 2013 senior football championship. His influence and his industry are huge. He’s aggressive, he’s strong, he gets forward at every opportunity, he defends when he’s needed. Just an all-round player, the full package. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
I was at a game in Croke Park during the summer where I got talking to a fella in a suite who was a guest of one of the bookmakers. It was one of those great days where the football was good, the spread of food and drink laid on was excellent, the mood was light and the enjoyment was mighty.
I said to him at one point that this was as good a place to be as anywhere in the world and weren’t we lucky to be here. My man gave a smile and pointed to the bookie’s logo. “Sure haven’t we it well paid for?” he said.
The beauty of the championship though is you never feel like counting up the cost until it’s all over. Now that the sky is back to being grey again, you’d nearly feel like there was never a sunny day. But there were plenty of them and it’s always good to look back.
Highlight of the year
Every year when we get to this point, I always think we’re a bit too quick to declare the championship only started on the August bank holiday weekend. Fair enough, that’s where the biggest games were and where they always are but when you have a championship that was as enjoyable as this one, you can’t just put it all down to what happened in Croke Park.
A game like Donegal v Tyrone in Ballybofey feels like it happened years ago at this stage but it was one of the really great occasions of the summer.
The quality might not have been right from the top drawer and there was a fair bit of off-the-ball stuff going on but it had a lot of physicality and manly football.
We can’t lose the good things from our championship and a day like that stands out as one of those.
There was plenty more before we ever made it to Croke Park. Monaghan’s odyssey gave them a big day above in Clones that they well deserved.
Down v Derry was a cracking match, Kerry v Cork in the Munster final was pretty good as well. There was lots to see outside of the All-Ireland series.
Team of the Year
In the end, Dublin’s performances from the quarter-final onwards earned them the title. They have every chance now of being serious contenders for a long time. Their work at underage has been coming to fruition for a couple of seasons and this is what’s going to keep them at or near the top.
If you’re a young Dublin footballer at 15 or 16 years of age, the system is there for you to make the best of yourself. Before you make it to minor, you will be familiar with the inside of the DCU gym, you will be starting out on weights programmes and conditioning and you will find there’s a consistency between each stage of your development as the years go by.
All of it leads to men whose conditioning isn’t bettered by anyone in the country. Men like Paul Flynn, whose shoulder on Lee Keegan in the All-Ireland final was the product of years of preparation by the Dublin system.
People said the All-Ireland final was a poor game – I disagree. It wasn’t as fluid as other games but it had some great physicality in it. Guys came out of that game battered.
You have to have this endurance, this level of conditioning. This is a physical game and it’s good to be reminded of it from time to time.
Performance of the Year
Aidan O’Shea against Donegal had one of those days where he was just unstoppable. It happens to you very few times in your career – everything you try comes off, every move you make goes right. He could have run into the dressingroom that day and a kick-out would have landed in his chest. It was awesome.
Gripe of the Year
The referees issue isn’t going away anytime soon. The lack of consistency in refereeing decisions is still the bane of the game. Tom Cunniffe and Peter Harte collide shoulder to shoulder in the semi-final and the ref throws the ball in. Rory O’Carroll and Enda Varley come together in exactly the same way in the final and O’Carroll gets a yellow card for it. This is what drives teams crazy and what leads them to believe there’s no point trying to be whiter than white. Why would you bother, if you’re going to get done anyway?