Second Opinion: Ciarán Murphy on the new ‘lovable’ Dubs

Jim Gavin’s stylish team popular even with their country cousins

Kevin McManamon and Jim Gavin with Sam. Even their greatest sin in the eyes of many – winning lots of football games – hasn’t reached epidemic levels yet. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Kevin McManamon and Jim Gavin with Sam. Even their greatest sin in the eyes of many – winning lots of football games – hasn’t reached epidemic levels yet. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

What garlands can I lay at the feet of the team that has everything? Well, on the week the Leinster football championship starts, we could start by naming a few things the Dublin senior football team currently don’t have.

They definitely don’t have a scumbag or two onboard; just ask Tomás Ó Sé, who got a lesson this week in the linguistic differences between Dublin and down the country – ‘scumbag’ carrying a rather different, slightly more innocent meaning in Ventry than it does in the capital.

They don’t have a cult hero in the Joe McNally/Vinny Murphy/Jimmy Keaveney mould (they have six-packs instead, more’s the pity). And right now, I don’t think they have 31 other counties willing them to be beaten. Dublin might just be the most popular team in football.

I rang a man in Galway this week. And I asked him just the sort of open-ended question they teach you about in journalism school – “you hate the Dubs, right?”

The Dublin fans of my acquaintance are as sure of this as they are of their own superiority. If you’re a bogger, you hate the Dubs. They nurture that hatred, and helpfully sprinkle their conversation with reminders of their own brilliance to strengthen your resolve.

But my western correspondent replied – “Hate the Dubs? They play the only football worth watching! Give me Dublin stitching 20 points on someone ahead of a 9-8 grueller between Cavan and Armagh any day of the week”.

And the more people I asked, the more it became clear – Dublin may not be Ireland’s darlings just yet, but their football is compelling.

Second Captains

Same haircut

They might all appear to have the same haircut, and their trophy presentation and post-match interview double-act of Stephen Cluxton and Jim Gavin don’t exactly convey the full kaleidoscope of the emotions of victory in the style of 1982-vintage Marco Tardelli, but that’s not exactly criminal . . . they’ve had plenty of practice in that area, after all.

Tomás O Sé’s linguistic clumsiness aside – they have a couple of players who are happy to mix it, of course. But all things being equal, Dublin will beat you playing football.

Philly McMahon served his ban for contact with the eye area of Kieran Donaghy in the All-Ireland final last year but, that unsavoury incident aside, we’ve seen nothing from Dublin that we haven’t seen loads of times from Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, or Tyrone.

Scumbags?

The public’s impression of this Dublin team’s approach to life is closer to that of an extremely earnest, dedicated, polite bunch of young accountants, being managed by a large group of extremely earnest, slightly older accountants. That image is carefully cultivated, and comes from the team captain and manager, but of course you scratch the surface and you find something deeper.

Jack McCaffrey decides to volunteer in Africa for a summer rather than try and defend his Footballer of the Year award.

Rory O’Carroll jets off to New Zealand, saying it could be for six months, or six years.

When O’Carroll was asked what he’d say to Dublin fans distraught at the thought of his absence, he replied – “I’m sure they’ll get over it”. There, one suspects, are two men who have the right idea about how to live their lives.

Buckets of charm

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McManamon compered it with charisma, humour and buckets of charm. Many of his team-mates were there to support this prospective Brucie Forsyth among their number, and obviously none of this should come as a surprise.

There are issues with the financial resources at their disposal but should we let that cloud what our eyes can see plainly – that here is the first truly great counter-attacking Gaelic football team? No one is scoring as heavily as the Dubs, no one attacks with as much fluency as the Dubs, and, most importantly, no one is offering a better vision of what the game can be in the next 20 years.

Even their greatest sin in the eyes of many – winning lots of football games – hasn’t reached epidemic levels yet.

Three All-Ireland titles in five years is good, but it isn’t exactly an empire, not quite.

Last August, nursing 12 months of pain after the previous year’s loss to Donegal, they were taken to a replay by a Mayo team at war with itself. They may not win the All-Ireland this year, but right now they are the best thing about the sport.

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