Dublin triumph in unforgettable football contest
Jim Gavin’s men first Dublin team to win three All-Ireland titles in a row since 1923
Dublin celebrate after narrowly beating Mayo 1-17 to 1-16 in Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Let the ovation ring on. Let it ring across the city tonight and deep into another brilliant All-Ireland autumn for Dublin, one of the finest football teams to ever play the game.
And let it be heard, too, in the anguished townlands of Mayo, where the Hunger Games must go on for another winter.
On Sunday, both of these never-to-be-forgotten teams gave Ireland an unforgettable football contest. The best of the country was locked into the stories and people of the day.
In the end, it took a free kick of exceptional courage and poise by Dean Rock, son of 1980s Hill hero Barney, to split the difference between these two teams.
Jim Gavin’s men are the first Dublin team to win three All-Ireland titles in a row since the 1923 side.
And on Sunday’s evidence, they are getting stronger. Con O’Callaghan, the Cuala phenomenon playing in his first senior All-Ireland, danced through for Dublin’s only goal when the game was just two minutes in.
O’Callaghan is the embodiment of the rampant health of Gaelic games in the city: in this season alone, he has garnered an All-Ireland club hurling medal, an All-Ireland with Dublin U-21s and now this. Dublin is breathing fire like never before.
But Mayo. Mayo. They do not know how to quit. It finished 1-17 to 1-16, the second consecutive year in which Dublin had eclipsed them by a single point.
Last year, these teams took the All-Ireland final to a replay. This time, with both teams down to 14 men, it was questionable if the Mayo men even had enough energy to work the ball up to the Hill to force another day. It was plain to see that they had thrown their souls into this long after their bodies were screaming for respite.
The Dubs sent in as reserves two former footballer-of-the-year winners and multiple All-Stars and – finally – Diarmuid Connolly, one of the best all-rounders to ever play the game. Their squad is simply too good, too deep.
Mayo, in contrast, threw in the same group of four kids who made the grade. The centre could not hold. Deserve is nothing in this game. Tears. Almosts. 1951. Next year. Stephen Rochford, their shattered manager, put it best afterwards: “Sport can be cruel sometimes.”
It is as cruel as it is beautiful. Both truths floated across the city after this magnificent game.
The Mayo folk memory of what it is like to feel the magic of these days grows fainter. In Dublin, there are thousands of young Blues fans who don’t know that it’s possible to feel anything else.