There will be an admission here that yours truly has a few vices. I’m definitely a curry fiend – the stuff would be the sole food intake were it possible. Aside from that, a penchant for reading papers often long after their publication date. Things aren’t, granted, as bad as they once were before a bit of order was brought to certain areas.
Be that as it may, on the morning of the replay between Dublin and Kerry, a fascinating piece by Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent published hours before the drawn game was unearthed. In it, the writer convened an interesting mix of sons of the city – Eamon Dunphy, Jimmy Grey, Dermot Gilleece and Tommy Carr among them – seeking to define what it was to be a Dubliner. Or more specifically in a GAA sense, a ‘Dub’.
To read the various responses from the assembled quorum was to gain a fascinating insight into the psyche of inhabitants of the capital. This observer, at least, got the sense of a people often divided by class, circumstances and mindsets among other things. Such actualities may not be as prevalent now as was once the case, but, where the deeds of the late Kevin Heffernan – both as player and manager – gave a people something to identify with, so too have Jim Gavin and his players brought the masses with them.
The most interesting portion of what was a very long piece was when the author asked the audience about the song relating to the big smoke with which they most related. Many of those present plumped, maybe unsurprisingly, for Molly Malone. Carr, however sided with Dublin In The Rare Auld Times. Now read on.
At some point between the game ending and me logging into Twitter the next morning, a Dublin-supporting friend of mine took to the social media platform. The individual in question is an interesting case. With a Dublin mother and his late, great father being a Meath man. The offspring has always sided with maternal instinct.
Many the hour has been consumed and many the pint digested debating the rights and wrongs of that whole situation, I can tell you. However, his communication after the latest glorious evening really struck a chord: Raised on songs and stories.
Not only because of Carr’s signposting of the anthem. Nor was it down to memories evoked of Kelly and Drew and McKenna. More fundamentally, though, wasn’t it how we all got our formative grounding in Gaeldom? Heroes of renown/The passing tales and glories.
However, in reference to Jim Gavin and the magnitude of what those under his stewardship have achieved, it all goes back to the first lines of the old number. After all, the Clondalkin man and his generation of players would’ve been raised on the stories and songs of the exploits of Heffo and those guided by his greatness. Essentially, one line from one song says it all.
Of course, it’s not just a Dublin thing by any means. Similar sentiments apply everywhere. Meath’s breakthrough bunch would’ve been inspired by the exploits of the men of ’49, ’54 and ’67. Just as they themselves carried the torch which brought along those who garnered glory for the county in 1996 and 1999. Why all that resonated so strongly over the weekend in question was two-fold. Firstly, out of shuddering pondering of the effect this latest Dublin triumph could have on future generations taking up the game in the metropolitan area. Mind you, over the course of the same weekend, folks in Meath, albeit through adversity, were left with ample evidence the future remains bright.
To wrap matters up on the Dublin side of things, though, this group will surely now be justifiably acknowledged as the finest to have graced the old game. Simply put, nobody else has achieved what they just did. As phenomenal as it has been for those of us in a position to witness it, it’ll surely be the instigation of future generations coming along. Those who are currently being inspired to take up the game by the achievements of these monumental men and those who will continue to be by stories thereof for generations to come.
Closer to home, though it may seem a world away from what Dublin have been doing – on several fronts – you’d hope some Meath youngsters would get ‘the bug’ from our teams competing, and doing so with credit, on the biggest stages. Significantly, also, the on-field progress has manifested itself across nearly all the GAA codes.
Around this time last year, Andy McEntee stated the objectives for the 2019 season within the senior footballer’s group were to attain promotion to the top tier in the National League, qualify for the Leinster SFC Final and to be one of the Super 8. As has been well documented by now, these objectives were successfully met. Moreover, they competed with credit in the three ‘extra’ games against Donegal and Mayo and Kerry.
Furthermore, it’s both interesting and encouraging to hear the Bainisteoir acknowledge at a recent event that there is a realisation within the camp that the autumn of some fixtures this season had been problematic. Personally, the one which sticks out most acutely was the joust with our old foes from the west, when Colm Boyle’s 62nd minute point for the green and red seemed to drain the productivity from what to that point had been a most valiant effort.
The thing is, whatever about that which there is left to work on, it’s beyond question, to me at least, that this group of players can take Meath even further forward. Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill and Donal Keoghan would all be entirely worthy of All Star nominations and while 14/1 is probably a fair reflection of the Rathkenny clubman’s prospects given the ferocity of competition there is likely to be for berths in the half back line, the status of our trio as three of the finest in the game is doubtless.
Add to that the emergence – or further development if you prefer – of players such as Shane Gallagher, Ronan Ryan, Ethan Devine, Darragh Campion and Shane Walsh and you begin to see the assembly of the sort of strength and depth required to maximise prospects of sustainability at the highest level.