Friday, 23 September 2011

Why Dublin's All Ireland victory means so much

It's five days since Dublin won the Sam Maguire Cup and I'm still smiling. Indeed I've never seen so many people with smiles on their faces as I did last Sunday.

The celebrations went late into the night and there was another session the next day in the local GAA club in Clondalkin and at the homecoming event in Merrion Square.

It'll take me a bit to explain why Dubliners are so delighted with this victory.

The first one is that we haven't won the All Ireland in 16 years. But even in 1995 and the time before that in 1983 the victories were controversial and left a bit of a sour taste.

In 1983 three Dublin players were sent off, Brian Mullins for elbowing a Galway player in the head and Ciarán Duff for kicking another in the head. Depending on where you were from the players became known as the the 12 Apostles or the Dirty Dozen. I'm not sure when the 'Dirty Dubs' tag got attached to the county but it's been around for as long as I remember and I'm sure that game added a lot to it.

In the 1995 final Charlie Redmond was sent off for headbutting a Tyrone player, but managed to stay on the pitch for a few minutes in one of the most bizarre episodes in GAA history. This incident led to the introduction of yellow and red cards in the games. The awarding of a free out against Peter Canavan in the dying minutes of the game as Tyrone were about the equalize and the accusations that the referee had favoured Dublin also cast a shadow over the victory.

Even though the Dubs did win in 1995, that team should have won at least two other All-Irelands, but they never lived up to their potential. They could and should have won all of the four games against Meath in 1991 but failed on each occasion.

Since then bad luck and nerves have plagued the Dublin team. Look at the record at this link to see what I mean.

In the past ten years there was the epic draw against Kerry in Thurles after we were ten points down, the free kick in the last minute that came off the post against Armagh in 2002, the physical pressure we buckled to against the same team next year, the eight point lead we lost against Mayo in 2006, the shameful capitulations against Tyrone and Kerry in 2008 and 2009, and the one point loss against Cork last year.

One of the best things about the win this year is that it was against Kerry, the team that has gotten the better of us eight times since 1977.

They destroyed Dublin in 1978 and 79 and made a laughing stock out of Paddy Cullen in 1978.

They were the better team in 1984 and 1985 but Dublin were unlucky in 2001. They were the better team again in 2004 and 2007, but you can't fault Dublin's great effort in the latter year.

The worst loss came two years ago. After Tyrone had trounced us in 2008 the team looked like it had recovered and were favourites to win against a Kerry team that was playing terribly that season.

Dublin totally bottled it however, and lost by 17 points.

Pat Gilroy was in charge of that team, and things didn't improve at all at the start of the 2010 Championship. The games against Wexford, Meath and Tipp were the worst performances by a Dublin team I'd ever seen. I was just hoping that my fears about Gilroy's management were wrong (thankfully they were).

I was so despondent about the team that I was almost ready not to go to the next game against Armagh. One of the things that persuaded me to go was the fact that the Dublin hurlers were playing Antrim beforehand, so I was thinking that we'd at least have one victory to celebrate.

Then the hurlers threw away a comfortable lead and lost in the last minute! The time between the end of that game and the victory over Armagh was the darkest in the entire time I've been following the Dubs.

Now I'm going to forget about all that heartbreak!

Last Sunday the Dubs did things they hadn't done for many many years. They beat Kerry, they won a game that was slipping away from them and they showed incredible bravery and composure. The dramatic manor of the victory only adds to the celebrations.

I used to watch clips on Youtube from the 1977 victory over Kerry every so often, but now we have a successor. I've watched the glorious last nine minutes of the 2011 final on the RTÉ Player a few times since Monday, and I might just watch it a few more times in the future.

As well as that I've been watching clips of the last minute of the game, some of which are below. Fans from counties who haven't succeeded on the big day like Mayo and Kildare can take some inspiration from them, for the Dubs...enjoy!

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