Crokes' team ethic sees persistence pay off for Carr
T he idea of finishing the club competitions in the calendar year may be very sensible but there is a bit of magic about the St Patrick's Day double in Croke Park and when something is working well in the GAA, the smart move is to do nothing.
Last Tuesday was another one of those great days. Maybe it is the real All-Ireland final and I would say players who have been fortunate enough to win an All-Ireland with both club and county might be hard pushed to say which is the best.
One thing is for sure, the club leaves more of an imprint on life: the days of innocence at underage, the good days and many more disappointments, the odd row with the club being obligatory, the involvement of family and old friends. The true character and characteristics of a man are shown at club level, some of these are hidden at county level but if you really want to know a player, watch him on the local scene and you will learn much more.
Some might crib about this year's finals but Portumna were delightful to watch in terms of touch, speed and style; a team with total confidence in themselves who would beat most county sides. Then there was a right battle between Kilmacud and Crossmaglen, a great contest if not a great game. Even the weather played ball. I can recall being at a Leinster Colleges final a few years ago on the national feast day when a most bitter east wind left people wondering if the next ice age was upon us.
Kilmacud's five-point win was a fair enough reflection on the game. They were a bit sharper all round and were a much more balanced team even if Cross stuck doggedly to them and played as if they thought they could reel in the Crokes at any time. Yet Kilmacud had more pace in vital positions and Croke Park is the ground for speed. Men who can get by with a lack of pace in other grounds will be exposed when they try to keep up in the main arena.
There are many who like to have a cheap jibe at Kilmacud but instead of smart comments maybe others should try their formula. Just because you have lots of members does not mean that the same amount or more does not go into preparing teams. The hundreds of youngsters have to be looked after, there has to be countless volunteers so I can't see where they are different from other places. Maybe they have big numbers but finding, training and minding players needs the same amount of work -- no matter where you are.
As always too, there is a hint of money having something to do with their winning. It is as if a poor GAA man has some moral advantage over a rich one. Anyway, Kilmacud is hardly Miami or Dubai; in fact it is much the same as many GAA constituencies and not many of their players arrived into Croke Park with gold rings dripping off their fingers.
It was the usual mix of teachers and students, bankers and insurance officials and maybe even an unemployed man or two. The only thing I would have against them is that they don't have a farmer among them! Every team should have a red head and a farmer. Of course too they had a couple of outsiders, but what Dublin team at senior does not?
Yet what was most obvious about Crokes was that this was not just a collection of good individuals, this was a team where everybody was willing to work for the common good. To me, nobody exemplified that more than a player who spent only a short time on the field. But Jonny Magee was more than a sub, he was the heart and soul of the team, a warrior in every game he came on and he set standards of commitment that the others followed. It was his finest hour and fitting that he should lift the cup because his very presence says more about the team than any words or deeds.
His brother Darren also gave a fantastic display, while the O'Carrolls, Paul Griffin and all the backs were brilliant. Pat Burke won everything up front, and if he could score a bit more, he would have a future at county level while Mark Vaughan has added graft and honesty to his game. He should dye his hair black too -- he might get it easier to win a free. And Ray Cosgrove found redemption too with a final point into the goals that almost sank him.
Maybe Dublin are not going to gain substantially from an influx of new players but after rounding up the usual suspects, Cian O'Sullivan is a fine player and may see some action this year and the O'Carrolls could also feature if Anthony Daly keeps away from
the football talent when he is looking for a bit of class on the opposition benches. A bit of a dilemma for those young men.
Crossmaglen were disappointing. The old heroes ran out of legs but the McEntees, Francie Bellew and Oisin McConville will always be heroes in Cross. They have played a world of football and should be in line for about three testimonials. And with names like Kernan, Clarke and McKenna, Crossmaglen are not going away. As it was, they left with dignity, no complaints or whinging, just an acknowledgement that on this day they were not good enough.
It was a day of absolute triumph for my old friend Paddy Carr. It was a big job to take on but he certainly got the best out of them and the greatest thing was that they got better with every game -- a few ropey contests in Dublin, minor miracles in Leinster and the best display of all in the All-Ireland final. That is what a great team does. Persistence is a virtue and for Paddy Carr, the long struggle has landed the biggest prize of all. Great things come to those who wait.