These are indeed the rare ould times. Dublin fans have always been raised on songs and stories of heroes of renown – those heroes are among us right now.
On a wet August Saturday night just 10 short years ago and a sunny afternoon the following year the successes of today seemed a long way off. We wondered would Sam Maguire ever rest his head in the capital city again. What has happened since 2011 has been simply incredible and we should savour ever single minute of it.
Make no mistake these are very, very special players. The lack of this basic recognition in some quarters says more about those who chose to ignore all that is good in this group, on and off the pitch, than anything else. I have no interest in those who seek to undermine the Dubs at every turn.
Let us instead celebrate the joy that these lads have given us. A goalkeeper who has re-defined the game on many levels and who constantly seeks improvement from himself and those around him. Stephen Cluxton a man who has lifted Sam Maguire four times in a row. In a county that has always produced wonderful goalkeepers he is the most legendary number 1 of them all. And a special mention to Evan Comerford who was not found wanting when needed this Summer.
We have the kind of defenders that you would go into any battle with and be confident of winning. Philly, John Small and Coops – hard, tough men who love nothing better than physicality of our game. We have the likes of Cian and Jamesy – Rolls Royce players who glide over the ground. Then there is Jack – a flash of lightning who clearly enjoys the game as much as when he was under 8.
Then there are the likes of Eric, Fitz, Davey Byrne and of course Buttsy. Lads who never let us down.
We have bolters like Howard and Murchan this year, Scully last year. Lads who come into the greatest team of all time and play like they have been there for years. Brian Fenton, the most elegant midfielder I have ever seen and Michael Dara probably the most inelegant – but a true warrior and what an option to have.
Our forwards have also redefined the game and are a joy to watch. Deano especially but what a season from the likes of Paul Mannion, Ciaran and Con. And then we have the cavalry – Cormac, Kev Mc, EOG, Paddy S & A, Basquel, McHugh and Flynner. And all this with little or no Bernard.
For four years now we have had the great pleasure of travelling the country to watch these guys during League time and we have had also some great recent trips in the Championship. 28 times we have witnessed their exploits – winning 26 of them and drawing just two.
We have watched them counter anything that has been thrown at them (howya Lee), saw them overcome adversity, adapt to testing situations, solve on-field problems and thrill us with breath taking football and sublime scores. They have set the bar so high and in a spectacularly brilliant way. They should be lauded at every opportunity for this. They are the players that you want your kids to emulate.
They train hard, are obviously as close as any family, and they work hard too. The man of the match in this ‘professional team’ does 60 hour stints in a hospital. They love their football and they love what they achieve. They are driven by the honour of playing for Dublin and their hunger, for a team with all their achievements, is astonishing.
Off the pitch they are complete gentlemen too. No airs and graces, just down to earth lads who really appreciate the support they get. Humility. And of course there is the unseen charity work and other stuff which I won’t even outline because they would not want that. It is not why they do it.
And all of this is glued together by a great coaching team and the greatest manager the game has seen – Jim Gavin. A thorough gentleman, Jim’s only focus is his players. He is scorned, even here, for his media utterances - but they are irrelevant. These are things he has to do and he always does so with as much courtesy as possible. He will never create controversy or bad mouth anyone and unfortunately in the world we live in today some think that is something to scoff at. His record is unparalleled and no manager will ever likely get close to it in the future. The team, their character and behaviour is a mirror of the man and what a great reflection it is.
So as we look back on another great year, what a journey it’s been. The joy we all feel today is what it’s all about. It has been a sensational time to be a Dublin fan – a time of immense pride. For four years my young lad has asked me – ‘do you think we’ll win today?’ For four years I have been telling him yes … only twice was I right at the second time of asking. He is a very lucky boy, has never seen us lose an All Ireland and been at them all except 2011. Long may it continue, this absolute privilege of following this Dublin team.
These are indeed the rare ould times.