Utilising what they have to best effect

As part of a college work experience stint working in Rehab’s Insight magazine, my brief was to visit certain prominent places around #Dublin and assess them in terms of accessibility. It will come as little surprise to many that the destinations which resonated greatest here were the #GAA Museum and the #Guinness Storehouse. Suffice to say, the dinner was well washed down in the latter!

Anyway, whilst in the familiar environs of Croke Park, it would’ve been unconscionable to leave without purchasing some memento of time spent there. What might raise a few eyebrows, though, was the item in question – the Decade Of The Dubs video. The tape compilation of the Meath-Dublin saga was already in my possession and though regret at not acquiring Kerry’s Golden Years has festered, hopefully someday said oversight will be rectified. David Geaney if you’re reading this, please take note!

Prime motivation for getting the Dublin video was to see for myself the storied clashes between Kevin Heffernan’s Dublin and the Kerry team trained by Mick O’Dwyer as the duopoly enjoyed a period of almost complete supremacy during the period focussed upon.

However, it was also whilst watching the perhaps curious acquisition that some great players from other counties came into view. People like John Tobin and Liam Sammon of Galway, Armagh’s Joe Kernan and, if memory serves my correctly, a Derry side which included Tom McGuinness – brother of Sinn Fein politician Martin.

More recently, thoughts centred for a while on another Martin from Derry, O’Neill. The Republic Of Ireland soccer manager was himself a gifted Gaelic footballer. We’ll come back to that. But, if attempting to engage in an analysis of O’Neill’s stewardship to date of our national soccer team – which has been engaged in extensively since he assumed the post and is only likely to have increased in its fervent nature recently – a few points are worth considering.

As a player, aside from representing Northern Ireland with distinction and once partaking in a game with an All Ireland selection, my greatest knowledge of his exploits stems from his spell at Nottinham Forest under the tutelage of the revered Brian Clough. During a period which surely must count as the most glorious in the history of those based at the City Ground.

That’s instructive in its own way when considering O’Neill’s achievements in management. Clough, undoubtedly, had an aura about him. Something which is perhaps best portrayed by the manner in which the fortunes of his beloved club plummeted following his departure.

Do I think Martin O’Neill has an aura about him? To an extent, undoubtedly. Maybe the ways in which the stories of he and his mentor intertwine to the greatest extent is in their shared capacity to inspire players to raise their collective game. Or, put another way, they perfected the art of utilising what they had to best effect. Whatever about honours won with Celtic, prior to taking control of our nation’s soccer fortunes, seeing O’Neill at his best was surely in the transformative impact he had during his time with Leicester City. Akin to that which Clough enjoyed at his managerial zenith.

This corner has – probably not surprisingly – been taken by those with GAA connection who’ve been central to what the Irish manager and much maligned assistant Roy Keane have thus far achieved in their time. For make no mistake about it, even making a play-off for next year’s European Championships is commendable enough.

However, to return to the suspected presence of a GAA-like spirit within the ranks of the current Irish squad, it’s not only in terms of Seamus Coleman and Shane Long – arguably the country’s standout performers during the current campaign – formerly being gifted exponents of our national games. There may be others besides them too.

But no, even besides the above, there’s been a spirit about the manner in which the Irish players have eked out results throughout this campaign – never more so than in the storied win over Germany – that may have resonated greatly with anyone who has any knowledge or recollection of some of the more vaunted happenings in GAA stadia down the years. A couple more in the next while would do nicely.


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