Wednesday 22 February 2017

Dubs stay 'Alive, Alive-oh' after Croker classic

Ryan Nugent

Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30

Nicole and Aine McClean, from Swords. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Nicole and Aine McClean, from Swords. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

At the final whistle of last year's All-Ireland final, some pubs in Killarney had changed the channel straight away - they didn't want to know. This year, despite the same outcome in the semi-final, they might have kept 'The Sunday Game' on a little longer.

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The Kingdom certainly "died with their boots on" as everyone made sure to point out. It must have been tough to hear 'Molly Malone' belted out as loudly as possible all the way up from Hill 16 through to the Cusack, Hogan and Davin stands.

Croker was shaking in a way that's normally kept in reserve for All-Ireland finals.

And a win over Kerry is always satisfying for the Dubs - but when you're so close to losing it, one imagines it's that bit more exhilarating.

Kerry great Tomás Ó Sé admitted he wanted to see the Hill silenced for the afternoon. Curse of the commentator? He got the exact opposite.

They knew they were close to losing their crown and the Kingdom, late on in the game, must have been full sure their day had finally come.

Dublin fans Fiona Hegarty, left, Aisling Ryan, centre, and Clodagh Butler from Clonsilla. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin fans Fiona Hegarty, left, Aisling Ryan, centre, and Clodagh Butler from Clonsilla. Photo: Sportsfile

The rivalry between these two GAA juggernauts began in the 1950s, blossomed in the 1970s and has intensified in recent years.

As broadcasting great Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh said at the end, nostalgic talk of the 1977 semi-final between the two was of the most defining match in the sport's history, but maybe we now have a new contender.

"People have been talking about the '77 semi-final for years; from now on I think the semi-final of this year will be spoken of as well," Ó Muircheartaigh said.

"It had everything from start to finish and Dublin were maybe slightly the better team in the end.

Tadhg Spillane (3), Alan Spillane, from Maynooth, and Jill Fitzgerald, from Rathfarnam. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tadhg Spillane (3), Alan Spillane, from Maynooth, and Jill Fitzgerald, from Rathfarnam. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

"You could see the reaction at the end of the match, nobody wanted to leave," the Kerryman added.

The problem of these classic clashes if you're from the Kingdom is that they just don't seem to be going your way.

The Dubliners’ Eamonn Campbell with Dublin fans Tommy Deans, from Clane, and Gerard Twohig, from Lucan. Picture: Arthur Carron
The Dubliners’ Eamonn Campbell with Dublin fans Tommy Deans, from Clane, and Gerard Twohig, from Lucan. Picture: Arthur Carron

Munster rugby great and All-Ireland winner with Kerry Mick Galwey took in the titanic battle with his son Ruaidhri (10), and had similar musings. "At one stage, we thought we were going to be rolled over, but we came back," he said.

"It was a great effort - but unfortunately, with all these classics, Kerry seem to be losing by a few points.

"Like 2013 and I remember '77 aswell - they died with their boots on," he added.

While the tension was palpable and an old rivalry reignited from the off - there was a moment where both sets of supporters united in the stands.

The death of Dublin supporter 'Batman' Ben Farrell (5) was recognised in a way sports fans know best - a deafening standing ovation for the boy who tragically lost his fight for life after a heroic battle against kidney cancer.

Dublin defender Philly McMahon pays tribute to ‘Batman’ Ben Farrell. Twitter @PhillyMcMahon
Dublin defender Philly McMahon pays tribute to ‘Batman’ Ben Farrell. Twitter @PhillyMcMahon

While his presence was felt around GAA headquarters in the fifth minute, it's clear he was in the hearts and minds of the Boys in Blue for the full 70. All-Star defender Philly McMahon made sure that was known. "The little batman was watching over us," he tweeted.

Philly and his teammates came good in the end - though the manner in which they did it ensured 82,000 men, women and children left Croke Park with severely shortened fingernails.

Dan O'Sullivan from Palmerston said nail-biting didn't even do it justice.

"I think I'm after ageing about 10 years," he said. "I don't think Kerry know how to beat Dublin - but it was very tense."

It might be a fourth Championship win over the Kingdom in a row, but that didn't matter a jot for Jimmy Carney from Walkinstown - he'll never get sick of it.

"It doesn't get better than that, beating Kerry, any day, it doesn't get better - the atmosphere was electric," he said.

But the last word had to go to adopted Dub and member of The Dubliners, Eamonn Campbell. The 69-year-old found more than one positive from the helter-skelter finale. "At least I know I don't have a heart condition," he said.

Leading a rendition of 'The Auld Triangle', he was quick to remind anyone who'd listen that the Dubs team would be singing Ronnie Drew on the bus home.

It was teary, it was nervy, heads were in hands - but as the All-Ireland series meets it's conclusion, the Dubs, as Ronnie would say, are still 'Alive, Alive-oh'.

Irish Independent

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