Wednesday 17 July 2019

Comment: Dublin shouldn't concern themselves with the joyless, dismal, ill-informed criticism aimed at them

The Dublin team stand for the Anthem before the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
The Dublin team stand for the Anthem before the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Roy Curtis

LIKE a jackhammer intruding on a Mozart symphony, so Dublin’s screeching critics insist on making themselves heard above Jim Gavin’s note-perfect hymns to glory.

Their crude, tiresome, wilfully ignorant, look-at-me protests reveal nothing of what is, for many, the near-religious experience of watching this team of a lifetime.

And so much more about the bitter worldview informing those labouring beneath the illusion that  financial doping and sheer weight of numbers are the sire and dam of this thoroughbred band.

Should it concern Dublin that they have come to attract the kind of joyless, dismal, ill-informed critic who travels to the Louvre with the sole ambition of identifying a fake?

That they are the Sky Blue backcloth of choice for commentators blind to beauty, determined to advertise humourless bias and an inability to celebrate the exceptional?

Or that the class of bleak-house, conspiracy-theorist who insists Stephen Cluxton would be nothing without money or population continues to wail gratingly in the background?

In truth, it should bother the champs as much as a single teardrop of rainwater would irritate the sun.

It should concern Jim Gavin no more than a team of stag-weekend junior footballers challenging his team to a shootabout.

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Football has many significant issues:  A team setting new standards in excellence, a county attracting new recruits to the game, are not among them.

The inference of the ABDs is that the dominance of Dublin, charismatic, dauntless, easy on the eye, festooned with gifted and driven athletes, is killing the game.

It is as absurd as identifying Usain Bolt’s brilliant eight-year, iron-fist hegemony as being calamitous for men’s sprinting.

As a rebuke to the loudhailer howls for justice, there are the facts:  Cork (E1,747,609) spent more than Dublin (E1,604,353) on inter-county preparation in 2017.

Those figures cover football and hurling. Mayo, who do not compete at elite level in the latter, spent E1,542,547.

There are 189 adult football teams in Dublin, significantly more than Kerry or Mayo, but, again, less than Cork (265).

If success is predicated on resources, finance and playing population, the Rebels would hardly have lost their two meaningful fixtures this summer by a 33 point aggregate.

The writer of last week’s anonymous insider New York Times Op-Ed piece excoriating Donald Trump dubbed the White House “Crazytown”.

As they bark and whine, imagining Dublin as some Bond-villain, the more extreme killjoys begin to seem as unhinged as Trump, clad only in MAGA boxer-shorts, watching Fox News while Tweeting about his enemies in CAPITALS.

Dublin are the CROOKED HILARY colonising the minds of angry polemicists and social media saddos.

Which would you prefer?

Watching Ciaran Kilkenny, the ginger Modric, unlocking doors and facilitating beauty; or listening to some career cynic repetitively dial and rant on 1-800 Invective?

Consider the joy of Jack McCaffrey, bursting with uncontainable glee, adoring every moment under the bright lights.

Or the two-decades of self-sacrifice, relentless work-ethic and unquenchable determination to improve that have smoothed Stephen Cluxton’s flightpath to immortality.

Now, set those images against the confused, contradictory tirade that in one breath accuses Dublin of swallowing the GAA whole and in the next laments relatively tiny playing numbers and support.

And you realise that there is a caste who see only darkness in grace, that the trajectory of their argument propels them on a warp-speed journey to a joyless nowhere.

Dublin are indisputably well-resourced and have been evangelical in spreading the GAA gospel to parishes where rugby and soccer have long held sway.  Good for them.

That Dublin have touched the heavens is so much less to do with weight of finance than the exceptional group of men who populate their squad and backroom team.

Alan Brogan eloquently outlined their strictly artisan working environment this week.

Their summer base is a sparse facility with a single dressing-room; in winter, they train off the Malahide Road on Innisfails’ sodden, muck-caked club pitch.

Broadway, it ain’t.

Rather than occupying the penthouse suite, Dublin, thrive, despite their facilities being poor relations of the lavish centres of excellence so many rivals call home.

Contrary to myth there are no meals delivered to their door; unlike other counties, there are no players helicoptered to training, no million dollar US fundraisers.

While some of his peers have made small fortunes from management, Jim Gavin has taken not a single cent for six years as the pilot of a life-affirming voyage.

He invests all of himself, not in pursuit of financial reward, but because the Corinthian notion of service – mocked by the smart-ass agnostics - is in his blood.

It was not money that facilitated Philly McMahon rising above the inherent disadvantage of a Ballymun upbringing that saw him lose a brother to drug addiction.

Rather it was his own will and the heroic voluntarism of heroes like Paddy Christie, cajoling, inspiring, sacrificing weekends and wallets, to nurse the next generation.

Ballymun truly cuts to the core of this nonsense, severs the artery connecting conspiracy with reality.

Here was an area that made headlines exclusively for social blight until the Dubs showcased the best of what that community could – given role models and leaders - be.

Of the team that started last Sunday, McMahon, James McCarthy, Dean Rock and John Small are proud to fly Ballymun’s flag and assist in altering perceptions. Evan Comerford and Paddy Small loomed behind them.

At underage, the teams on which McMahon played could not afford to buy playing gear and were mocked relentlessly because of their background.

Strength of character – a quality that cannot be bought - kept them running, even when the gradient was uphill and into the strongest headwind.

Explain to them how money made them the footballers they are, how it enabled Philly escape the tower blocks?

It is nothing but a grotesque, illiterate insult.

Is it money that facilitates Paul Mannion in making those selfless lung-busting 100-plus yard runs to execute a turnover, or that persuades Bernard Brogan – at 34 – to invest every fibre of himself in beating an ACL injury?

Ciaran Kilkenny was given one of the more lucrative rookie contracts ever penned by Aussie Rules accountants.

But the unpaid lure of the blue shirt was too powerful a magnet drawing him home.

And so he returned to conduct that beautiful Sky Blue symphony, a soaring aria that drowns out the jackhammer drone of the miserable mob.

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