Around 1987, I remember an old man in our village died. He was over the 80 mark so the wake was more of a carnival atmosphere than a morose affair. A celebration of a life well lived. The woman of the house, his daughter-in-law, recounted to each new visitor that he passed peacefully in his sleep. The scene sticks in my brain because of her retelling of the old man’s last conversation with her
” A gra – don’t be getting upset over me…I’m glad ’tis leaving this world I am and not coming into it “
As a 13 year old at the time, I couldn’t comprehend the weight of his words and why the gathering of family, friends and neighbours nodded sagely and thought them so wise. Over 30 years later, I am beginning to understand them a little bit better.
Most 13 year old’s I hung around with in 1987 were like me. Stone cracked about football. No technological distractions other than maybe encouraging the folks to invest in a BBC aerial. At night, more often than not, an O’Neill’s football was glued to my stomach with a head full of dreams to guide me through the witching hours.
The dream in the summer of 1987 revolved around our U16 team and making that year’s county final. When I’d be piecing together this vision each night, there would always be little adjustments on each recycling of it. However there was one pivotal scene that always remained unchanged.
The Half-time county final of my imagination always required us to be losing.
As I’ve grown older, it has struck me that dreams of winning require that aspect. For the whole experience to be totally satisfying, part of the storyline requires your character to be examined. It’s all fine and dandy winning matches by 15 points in a canter but fundamentally human beings want to know that when the chips are down their character will overcome the most stubborn of obstacles.
This is why I think Dublin will be glad to finally meet Mayo again after a 2 year sabbatical. Mayo have been Dublin’s go to proctologists in this near 5 year victory march. Great teams don’t shy away from a gut check.
In 4 All Ireland finals there has been the massive difference of 3 points between Dublin and Mayo.
When Dean Rock is recounting tales of his free-taking into his twilight years, he might allow himself a hot whiskey as he explains to his grandchildren what a GPS tracking system was and what its like to nail the winning kick in an All-Ireland when one was flying through the air in his general direction. Character can be fairly and unfairly checked. I probably don’t need to tell you which one is even more satisfying.
That supposed enfant terrible, Diarmuid Connolly, will hopefully be allowed to spend some of his retirement years amassing garlands for his magnificant forward play and some of his more extravagant scoring exploits. The conversation will probably become a little more animated as he recalls 2016 and Lee Keegan.
Connolly and Keegan. The dynamic duo. A two game argument about who was Batman. Alas we never fully found out due to Keegan’s early dismissal in game 2. But Connolly went home with the medal.
I guess the point is – I bet those wins are treasured a little more specially by the Dublin fans and players. The teams had an edge and Dublin’s gut was well and truly checked.
While some Dublin supporters, The Sunday Game and Joe Brolly point scientifically to this year’s must have GAA fashion accessory, the shot conversion statistic and say Mayo haven’t a prayer of winning this match – I suspect Jim Gavin is pouring over some more fundamental questions.
Will Chris Barrett still hit the grass in Croke Park like a pedigree Charolais bull that’s been let loose into a field of heifers?
Will Colm Boyle be patting half- forwards on the backside as they pass through his domain or still be salivating down their necks like a thirsty bullock.
I think we know the answer.
Will Andy Moran still be doing his Peter Pan routine or suddenly turn into Rip van Winkle on Saturday?
I think the orange boots have a little more mileage in them yet.
I would suggest that deep down these Dublin Footballers hope they do too.