Monday 23 April 2018

City becomes a town when Dubs rise up

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Today there's no pardons, no 'Welcome Back' sign on the back door, no Mulligans -- bar a lone Eoin. Dublin and Tyrone will bring 60,000 to Croke Park. Not a bad crowd in bad times. The Dubs are still the biggest show in town.

Last weekend in Croker, players were slipping and falling like presidential candidates. When the Dubs fall, it is from a great height and some of the tumbles have been spectacular.

But it was Tyrone who fell when these teams met last year, kicking 17 wides in the process. Some of the misses were as a result of the massive efforts of the Dubs' campaign of legitimate harassment. Easy points were missed.

Sean Cavanagh had a wide-awake nightmare. Cavanagh is by some distance the best attacking midfielder in the country right now. He's moving much more freely this year. Dublin will have to man-mark him.

Sean and Colm Cavanagh live no more than a long kick from the pitch in Moy. Jack O'Shea's house was only a short stroll from Con Keating Park in Cahersiveen. Billy Morgan had a pitch instead of a front lawn.

Properties near playing fields should be recession-proof.

Mickey Harte has introduced new players. All must have been brought up near a pitch. They are natural footballers. Dublin will be the ones who will do most of the hitting. Tyrone's kids are going to be tested physically.

Mickey tailors tactics to suit his players. Tyrone will not get too physical. The ball will do the damage.

During the week, Mickey hit out at the fixtures and fittings. It was bad law, he said, to force the provincial champs to wait for so long after winning the title. He's right. Worse again, opined Mickey, there was no reward for winning your provincial title.

Right again, Mickey. The provincial winners should be given home venue for the last eight. You can win your province by beating a team that gets a second chance and you get none. There's no fairness there.

But Mickey said it this week. Was it a subtle ploy by a master psychologist to instil in the Dubs that if they lose, it's not really their fault at all? It was Ferguson-esque.

We wrote here about 10-year-old Adam O'Sullivan, who has been making hit records for Crumlin Children's Hospital with our favourite band 'The High Kings'. Last night, Adam led out Man United for Paul Scholes' testimonial. Alex Ferguson calls him every now and then and Adam offers the great man advice on team management. Ferguson is mad about the kid.

Now we know why it is that players do better for Fergie. He has a huge heart.

Mickey Harte, likewise. For me, he stands out as the one of the men of our times. He has had a terrible year but has come through it with dignity and bravery. Mickey, along with Brian Dooher, shouldered the coffin of murdered PSNI and GAA man Ronan Kerr.

It's easy for us in the south to make a stand, but up north it takes monumental courage.

Dooher was never short of that. He was the one who lifted Tyrone when games were going against them. Dooher would be on my greatest team of all time.

But Brian is at an age now when they call the fire brigade to put out the candles on his birthday cake. He will be brought on, for sure. There's still a half left in him. Half of him is better than a full of anyone else.


We pray the Dubs will not collapse as they have done in the past. There were days when 40,000 people were looking at the ground on the way home lest anyone see the pain in their eyes.

To the newly arrived, the city seems no different from any other big place. Same shops. Traffic. People walking too fast. Worried faces. No eye contact. Every small job a day's work.

On GAA Sundays, you see why tourists get to love Dublin. It's the people: the Dubs. A city becomes a town. The Dubs are one and everyone knows everyone else, even though they may never have met. They're some fun and they're not cute. They'll tell you what they really think.

The humour is best. Last year, near Croker, a stranger in blue asked, "Why is there no CSI Kerry?"

I didn't know the answer to that one. But the Dub did.

"Cos yez all have the same DNA."

Their team can be vulnerable to the quick counter-attack. Dublin's display against Wexford gives cause for alarm. Tyrone scored 3-19 against Roscommon.

Tyrone should win if their young lads are able for the hurly-burley, but these Dubs are capable of lifting their game to great heights on big days. The secret is not to fall off. There's no soft landing from here on in.

Irish Independent

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