James McCarthy enjoys a Blue Monday after his final flourish
Dublin midfielder among heroes of renown reconvening in Smithfield as the light declines
Sam Maguire is away to the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. Well, the mini van is heating up outside the Gibson hotel. The Garda escort in position.
Seamus ‘Shep’ McCormack, Dublin’s media manager among other multi-tasking in this totalitarian regime, has an unenviable few hours ahead.
“Here, can you get Dublin tops for Philly and James . . .”
Philly McMahon lands into the lobby, decked in full gear, stalling for a photo with a young lad decked in fuller gear. The juggernaut moves slowly today.
James McCarthy is waiting beside Jim Gavin (still refusing to touch the goblet). Easily the city’s most patient men. But everyone already knows that. There’s not a sinner to be found so the owner of five Celtic Crosses – eight in the family now John’s been blitzed, like all comers in the second half – spends mid-morning speaking across all media platforms.
Not a single complaint comes from the towering 27-year-old.
Gavin lingers at the lifts but no microphones approach him. Mentors Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock are also left to enjoy breakfast in peace. Still, penny for Jayo’s thoughts on Con O’Callaghan? Because Sherlock once was Con. The summer of 1995 feels light years past.
Another dimension almost. Fear not, ‘Boom-Boom - The Memoir’ is in the post.
Ciarán Kilkenny and the bold Jack McCaffrey are spotted surfing the Liffey. In truth, one of them is hobbling on crutches. Piper’s Corner, for those raised on songs and stories, has shimmied into Boar’s Head territory on a sun-kissed Monday in this cleaned up old town. Moving southside some Arnotts-clad bald tops are sipping porter outside Mulligans.
Nestles among vultures
History pervades upon these days. Barney Rock nestles among the vultures (the late Dave Billings’s affable term for journalists). Dean has spread his wings after chatting with Marty Morrissey on Morning Ireland at 8.30am. The Mayo player who tore out his GPS device and flung it at Rock during the back swing of the winning point goes unmentioned.
“They don’t all go over but the important ones do,” smiles Barney.
The Rock and McCarthy boys met in the cot with their friendship sparking 20 years ago.
“They played football together for Ballymun,” says Rock snr. “They are the closest of friends. Like, they stay in each other’s houses every now and again. From that point of view James drove him on as well and Dean drove James on.”
The McCaffreys, the Brogans too, all fathers passing the game onto sons.
“I’d say Bernard will be there next year,” Barney helpfully presumes. “The one I’d hope will be there next year would be Michael Darragh. He looks like he was disappointed not to get on in those two matches in a row. He’s lean and mean, when you look at him, and he looks very, very good, it’s just that James McCarthy was playing very, very well and also Brian Fenton. ”
There is more to this. Just passed the hour mark Macauley was stripped and tip-toeing the sideline, primed to replace Paul Flynn. Whatever happened amid the helter-skelter, Gavin threw Brogan at Mayo instead. Then Niall Scully replaced a cramping O’Callaghan.
There had been opportunities for this glittering bench to alter the starting XV. Imagine the scene about 10 days ago in St Clare’s, Glasnevin when Macauley, Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon, Cormac Costello and possibly Eoghan O’Gara were presented a clear shot at redemption.
A vicious, unseen training run for the ages.
“They gave us a good rattle, yeah,” says McCarthy of A versus B. “Got well stuck into us. Spiky enough game. They pipped us by a point. I was in foul humour for a few days after but it helped us prepare.”
Who were you marking?
“Michael Darragh Macauley. Wrecking ball. Not enjoyable.”
Some day, when Rome falls, the footage might leak onto YouTube.
Mayo’s ferocity surpassed that night game. They thundered into Dublin more than any team before them. Even Kerry in 2011.
“That game yesterday was different from anything I have experienced over the years,” McCarthy confirms. “The good weather, the heat, added a little to it as well.
“I’m wrecked yeah. My calves, my hip, my shoulder, my eye,” he says touching a purple left socket, then laughs.
Could you feel the desperation pouring from them?
“Of course. But we want to be the best team. We have that hunger as well. People underestimate our bit of bite, our madness for it.”
The best laid schemes of Dubs and Gavin often go awry in an All-Ireland final. It took five minutes before McCaffrey and his gammy knee were hauled off. In the meantime Andy Moran and Donal Vaughan gobbled up scores. And Lee Keegan cloaking Kilkenny spooked Dublin some more.
“What’s that famous saying, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the nose?”
Mike Tyson said that. McCarthy nods his approval.
“Emotionally you have to be at the level in big games. The physicality? Once you are at that pitch I find everything else just flows.”
Sat back down
These heroes of renown reconvene in Smithfield as the light declines.
A homecoming even though they never went anywhere. Slip back to Sunday brunch in Portobello. Two Dublin subs, one used, the other cruelly sat back down, are casually chatting to loved ones on a corner in the maze of red brick cottages. All the while Mayo are cramped into an alien Citywest hotel, tense minds far from western familiarity.
Dean Rock would have noticed a slight difference in Croke Park. His grand uncle Joe Rock passed away last December after 84 years safely guiding people through the bowels of the stadium.
“Joe would have been in the dressing room, this is the first year he wasn’t,” Barney explains. “I’m sure [DEAN] would have thought about him in the dressing room yesterday at some stage and certainly at the end of it. That’s life, nobody goes on forever.
“But then Joseph, his son, still works there, he does all the stewarding, he was there yesterday and he had a quiet word with Dean at the end so it was good.”