Friday 30 September 2016

Former Dublin captain Bryan Cullen: 'I never made it to Copper Face Jacks after 2011 final'

Ryan Nugent

Published 18/09/2015 | 08:02

Dublin captain Bryan Cullen lifts the Sam Maguire in 2011. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Dublin captain Bryan Cullen lifts the Sam Maguire in 2011. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

FOUR years on and it is still remembered fondly by all across Dublin.

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Entering the 2011 final, the county had not taken hold of Sam Maguire since 1995 and the stories of game and players from that era were quickly becoming longer and more colourful as each year passed.

Everyone in Dublin wanted to see the county return to the peak, and there was something special brewing in the season of 2011. Former inter-county footballer and Manchester United star Kevin Moran was spotted wearing his old Dublin jersey in Quinn's in Drumcondra before the final.

Captain Bryan Cullen (inset) said the 16-year drought was playing on the minds of the players as they prepared to take on Kerry. Shortly before 5pm, history had been achieved - and in some fashion.

The Dubs overturned a four-point deficit late in the game to draw level with the Kingdom. Then, in the final moments, Stephen Cluxton launched a free-kick over the crossbar to clinch the famous win.

"You try not to think that this could have been our only chance, and try to just think about that game, but it was definitely in the back of the mind that Dublin had waited so long to get here and you weren't sure when the next one would be," said Cullen.

"We had to make the most of the opportunity."

Cullen (31) said he was relieved to finally have an All-Ireland medal to his name after years of coming close.

"I made my debut when I was 18 and didn't play in my first All-Ireland Final until I was 27. So at one stage it looked like I was going to go 10 years without anything - so it was a relief to come out with something to show for it," he added.

Cullen - who retired from inter-county football in 2014 - lifted the Sam Maguire Cup in Croke Park and made headlines with his speech to supporters, saying "See you all in Coppers".

He told the Herald that the night didn't quite go to plan.

"I actually didn't make it to Coppers that night, but that's well documented," he said.

The team was met by more than 40,000 fans for a homecoming in Merrion Square the following evening, and Cullen admitted a lot of the players were still a bit worse for wear from the night before.

"There were a few woolly heads around Merrion Square that day but it was great craic. It was especially great to give that to the fans, because not everybody gets to come to games and enjoy the celebrations, so it was good to see them all," he said.

"You obviously try to enjoy yourself for those few days, because you'd been training hard for around eight or nine months, so you're entitled to your down-time," he added.

Goalscorer Kevin McManamon performed a parody song about the rest of the squad in front of the crowd that night.

"I didn't know about the song, but Kev is a very talented musician so we're well used to him breaking into song," said Mr Cullen.

Happy memories indeed. More of the same this weekend, please.

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