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What a lift: How our boys in blue saved the honour of Gaelic football

What a lucky escape. The great matches we remember from our childhood were never that great. The bad matches were often worse. The 2011 All Ireland final might well have been the worst of all.

Which is the first reason why we should all be grateful to Dublin for saving the game of Gaelic football.

Finals often define the mood of the months or even years to come. A game of football played in a trench would have marked this year apart from the others, something to match the national mood.

Dublin prevented that happening. Instead we are illuminated this morning by something that has not been found in abundance, something to give us a spring in our step this morning -- optimism.

Dublin and Kerry are in the final again.

Even those who criticised Tyrone and Armagh for the blanket defence of the late 1990s were growing nostalgic with every Donegal match this year.

The final between Kerry and Donegal would have been a runner for the worst final of all time.

The semi-final scoreline will be the source of curiosity for years to come. Yesterday's showpiece English premiership match resembled it -- a soccer match when the winning team got as many scores as the winning All Ireland semi-finalist.

Eight points to six is a throwback to the early 1950s when the ways of stopping an opponent were defined by the physical force school of football. Since the 1970s, football has evolved rapidly with higher fitness and performance levels. Initially, speed and agility defined the game of the west and south, elbow-grease defined the game of the east and north, but even when Dublin, Meath, Armagh and Tyrone teams of the Nineties and Noughties got down and dirty there was still a chance for an opponent to carve something out of the stalemate.

Yesterday Dublin saved the honour of football. How they won is something that not even the management will be able to explain with any clarity. They had to climb into the trench to do it.

The Donegal option has proven more effective than anyone would have imagined and every team in Ireland is going to have to spend the winter fitting out some scoring half-backs if we are to be saved from the darkness that descended on soccer in the 1970s and rugby in the early 1980s.

It has been a great summer for the city with the rise of hurling and football teams at different levels, a sort of coming of age for the sky blue that would be incomplete without a flagship event on the third Sunday in September.

It is a myth that the GAA in Dublin needs the All Ireland to keep its place at the heart of popular culture in the city. But a series of big matches, pilgrimages to the Hill and days in denim, will all help.

Better still to have a final between Dublin and Kerry, a combination that cheers us up by mentioning the two counties in one sentence.

It brings us back to that childhood when, even if it wasn't always sunny, the rain was soft. Back to the days there was trouble in the Middle East and when we were broke.

Guess that fits the mood of 2011 perfectly.


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