Keith Barr: Dubs owe Gilroy great debt of gratitude
Published 23/09/2011 | 05:00
I GOT a text from a friend on Wednesday morning who, after some very serious celebrating, remarked that it was just as well this only happened every 16 years.
It's going to be quite a while before the partying in the capital finally eases off -- a lot of pain, effort, anger and joy needs to filter through the collective system before the dust settles.
Honestly, there are people in this city who will go to their graves happy and proud after what happened in that final eight minutes last Sunday.
Sometimes sport rises above analysis and I believe this was one of those occasions, similar to Armagh's success over Kerry in 2002.
We were overcome with joy; the image of Stephen Cluxton nailing that point will never be erased, but Cluxton was the only calm individual in the stadium.
Genuinely, I have never witnessed an outpouring of emotion like I saw in the aftermath and the people of Dublin owe a great debt of gratitude to Pat Gilroy, his players and management team for what they have achieved.
They are a brilliant bunch of lads and they thoroughly deserve everything they get. The manager drew a line in the sand two years ago on the back of a very troubling 12 months for Dublin football and in that short space of time, he has transformed it.
It was very difficult not to despair at times in the past. A 17-point hiding from Kerry 12 months after a similar reddening against Tyrone angered people and that cannot have been easy for anyone involved, particularly the players.
For the rest of us, it was much easier to distance ourselves by asking hard questions. Why could we not win the big prize? Was it that we weren't good enough or was it something deeper about Dublin, about our heads, our set-up?
But while that debate was still going on, Gilroy started on a difficult road from what seemed like a point of no return.
He led by example. He made very hard, unpopular decisions for what he believed was the correct course. He introduced a style of football that wasn't everyone's cup of tea. There were no half measures.
This approach earned him the total respect of his players, who have responded with an All-Ireland title, beating two of the yardsticks of modern football along the way. That is some achievement. Dublin are winners. They defeated the best in the game by refusing to lie down, by using their heads, by putting their bodies on the line when it mattered.
They defeated the best because the management team had planned to beat the best.
Of course, we had our luck -- you'll rarely win a tight All-Ireland without it -- but it is a measure of the Kerry lads that there is no whinging coming from the county. Kerry know deep down they made serious errors during a period when Dublin were always going to come at them; the Dubs won the Donegal game during a similar spell.
While many in Dublin despaired some years ago that we might never scale the psychological hurdles that seemed to be constantly in the way, all of a sudden we now boast young players like Rory O'Carroll and Ger Brennan who already have All-Ireland senior medals for club and county.
But Dublin's achievement hasn't been confined to moulding a new generation of winners. Alan Brogan has been a leading figure for nearly 10 years, but delivered his best season ever this year. It wasn't so long ago that people were questioning his very future with Dublin.
Equally, his brother Bernard has become a much better footballer under Gilroy's disciplined reign because, despite his talent, his work rate for the team now comes first.
Alan will probably go on to win Player of the Year for his consistent performances throughout the season just ahead of Darran O'Sullivan who was, once again, excellent in the final.
However, my own preference is for Cluxton. I hear commentators talking about these types of topics, getting all technical about a player's contribution. For me, a hero is someone who stands up to that type of ridiculous pressure and delivers.
Dublin hadn't gotten over a semi-final since 1995 and Cluxton's scores in the semi-final and final proved absolutely crucial. He's a real leader, not afraid of responsibility and his refusal to engage in any histrionics only strengthens his case for me.
At 30, Cluxton is one of this team's elder statesmen, but with the majority of the players at the perfect age to push on, there is no reason why this Dublin panel cannot add to its medal tally.
Dessie Farrell will be devastated at the loss in the minor final, but he has moulded a lot of very talented young players who will now enter the mix over the next few years.
But to remain proper contenders for some time, Dublin will need to keep going to the well. You cannot be satisfied with yourself and you must have the hunger to deal with the chasing pack. This is what the likes of Tyrone and Kerry have shown us. Pressure must now come on the panel regulars because Gilroy has shown that he will follow training-ground form.
That dynamic will drive further success and to that end, I sincerely hope the manager and his team stay in harness.
Yes, I've been critical of decisions in the past, I have opinions that I know people don't agree with. But what these boys have shown now, beyond question, is that they can cope with the most pressurised position in Irish sport.
It cannot have been easy for Pat and the lads. They have sacrificed so much of their lives, at home and in work, for the sake of Dublin football. They owe their county absolutely nothing. They have delivered.
Thankfully we can now put 1995 back in its box, but it will spook a lot of Dublin supporters if Gilroy steps down. We lost our manager after that '95 success and we never recovered our dominance.
Pat O'Neill's successor, Mickey Whelan, was ahead of his time and most of us were probably past ours, but sometimes there is a dynamic between a manager and squad that just can't be matched.
Last Sunday was a triumph for Mickey, too, by the way. He might have a pain in his b****cks listening to my opinion, but he made me Dublin captain when he was manager and he has helped mastermind perhaps Dublin's greatest ever All-Ireland success.
It has been a long and tough road for this county over the past 16 years and there are many players who have soldiered for Dublin during that period whose careers ended before we reached the promised land.
Men like Paddy Christie, Darren Homan, Johnny and Darren Magee, Colin Moran, Conal Keaney, Ray Cosgrove, Senan Connell, Ciaran Whelan, Jason Sherlock and Shane Ryan to name but a few. There are others on the panel like Tomas Quinn, David Henry and Paul Casey who have also been at the coalface during those turbulent years.
Sport will always be bittersweet and you'll always have regrets but I've little doubt that, to a man, every one of those lads named above was in absolute ecstasy when Joe McQuillan's final whistle sounded.
This win went beyond our own individual aims and ambitions. This one was for Dublin. Thanks lads.
Text-a-fiver for the Dubs?
WITH a big fund-raising task ahead of the Dublin County Board, sponsors Vodafone could do worse than to set up a text service for supporters to contribute during November
Schemes like that have worked very well for charities like Unicef in the past and with the goodwill in the capital at its peak, now is the time to harness it.
If all the Dublin fans who were so hell-bent on getting tickets for last Sunday pledged a fiver each, it would go a long way to meeting the deficit.
The days of hawking players around all winter or tapping big sums of money from businesses are probably gone, so Dublin GAA supporters are going to have to put their shoulder to the wheel.
Given what I witnessed around me in Croke Park last Sunday, I believe they'll be happy to do that.