Wednesday 23 October 2019

Family business: When Costello helped the Dubs to walk on water

Super sub Cormac made 2016 truly special

1 October 2016; Cormac Costello of Dublin celebrates with his dad, Dublin County Board CEO John, after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
1 October 2016; Cormac Costello of Dublin celebrates with his dad, Dublin County Board CEO John, after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Niall Scully

THE Dubs in the land of the small ball. For the Championship throw-in of 2016. Nowlan Park, home of the Cats.

The Boss has played there. But, on the banks of the Nore, there will only ever be one boss.

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Jim Gavin’s men going on the road added a touch of glitter to the Marble City. Nothing quite like the Travelling Dublin Roadshow

And despite what some say, the Dubs love to get out of the house. The big house.

When the Blues visited Kilkenny, it was a Hen and a Stag night rolled into one.

They defeated Laois on the hurling turf. Then they overcame the Royals back at base before beating Westmeath to lift the Leinster chalice. As usual.

In this current climate of Leinster Championship football, there’s nobody who can lay a glove on the Dubs.

It was Donegal next in the All-Ireland quarter-final. A hot, Saturday, sultry night in Croke Park. The Donegal of Michael Murphy.

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Former Dublin senior Wayne McCarthy looked out from the Upper Cusack. He had potted a few colours on the green baize below. Charlie Redmond’s apprentice who grew into a master.

Wayne has a love of greyhounds. Nobody could out-run Jack McCaffrey. T Rex could have changed their line for him – "He’s lives by the coast, and he’s faster than most".

Young Doctor Jack was travelling in 2016. Out-sprinting the cheetahs on the plains of Africa.

Donegal were good value. Substitute Paul Mannion’s goal was important. It was worth all the tea in China. Dublin won by five points – 1-15 to 1-10.

The crowds streamed out onto the city streets. Down by Ballybough, there was the smell of chips in the air. And the sound of the buskers . . . "Raised on songs and stories, heroes of renown".

On the DART, the faithful were giving their tuppence worth: "Mannion will have to start the next day."

He was on the bench. A full house for the semi-final. Dublin v Kerry. The magical pairing. You can’t beat it.

David Gough was the referee. He let the river flow. And flow it did. In the best traditions of Dublin and Kerry. It became a Liam Griffin Riverdance. The game of the year.

Kerry hit the Dubs for two goals before the break at the Hill end from Darran O'Sullivan and Paul Geaney. Kerry ahead by five points at half-time.

Reflecting on the summer of 2006 Robbie Brennan remembers that he wasn't worried.

He had memorable days with Kilmacud Crokes before donning the bainisteoir's bib. With Jonny Magee, he managed Crokes to last year's Dublin SFC1 title.

"Kerry pushed them close that day. And over the years. Mayo as well. But this Dublin side are always able to respond," says Robbie.

"When they are up against it, they have the ability to produce something extra. Just like Cody's Kilkenny teams over the years."

Dublin edged it in the end. Two late points from Eoghan O'Gara and Diarmuid Connolly. It was a game to take the breath away.

Ger Canning emerged from the commentary box and walked out from the Hogan Stand onto the street and declared: "You won't see a better match than that. This Dublin team are just extraordinary."

Read more: The Invincibles: Heroes of renown

PJ Brennan also offered a song of praise as the ground began to empty. PJ of St Joseph's O'Connell Boys. The great club of the inner city.

Paddy Cullen's fondest days were spent there. The O'Connell's club-house was a huge part of his life growing up on Seville Place. It was open six nights a week. It had a small gym, woodwork, basket making, snooker and many other activities.

"We spent our youth there," recalled Paddy.

PJ Brennan's son, Ger, is the celebrated St Vincent's and Dublin All-Ireland winning centre-back.

After the Kerry game, Eamonn Campbell slowly shuffled his way onto the thronged Jones's Road. The Dubliner didn't get very far. He was surrounded by joyous supporters.

And they all broke into a chorus of "the auld triangle, went jingle jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal."

Mayo in the final. The brave Mayo. And their spirited heroes. The team that keeps coming back for more. A county with 51 good reasons to win the All-Ireland.

The first day produced the result that brought a frown from the press box – a draw. The hols on hold. Another frantic few days ahead.

As Con Houlihan once wrote: "The readers see the Monday morning paper, but they don't see the nervous energy that goes into producing it."

In the replay, two weeks later, Dublin led by a point at the interval. Mayo took the lead in the second period. Diarmuid Connolly's penalty down by the banks of the Royal Canal put the Dubs three clear. The end where Paddy Cullen made his most famous save of all – when keeping the Sammon shot out of the net.

Yet, even more so than the penalty, it was Cormac Costello who won the 2016 All-Ireland for Dublin. There were 56 minutes on the clock when he came off the bench. His pace and brilliant finishing saw him score three priceless points.

He exuded confidence and his balance and brilliant two-footed ability pointed the way for Jim Gavin's Dubs.

Impact sub par excellence.

Dublin won by a point. A proud day for Cormac's dad, John, the Dublin County Board CEO. Who, in his Erin's Isle days, ruled the edge of the square like 'Bomber' Liston.

It was the first time since 1977 that Sam stayed in the capital.

John McCarthy played in that All-Ireland final win against Armagh. And now, his son, James, was following his journey. Two Dublin heroes.

The Brogans, Bernard and Jim, also played in '77. On a day when Jimmy Keaveney got 2-6 and Bobby Doyle 2-2. John McCarthy also found the Orchard basket.

Seeing the modern Dubs emerging from tight situations doesn't surprise Robbie Brennan.

"There's a great spirit in the group. Pat Gilroy instilled it and Jim (Gavin) has built on it. There's a superb work ethic and humility among the players.

"Jim has assembled a first-class management team. And there's no doubt he has to go down as one of the all-time great managers."

After the 2016 victory on October 1, Gavin reflected: "It's been such a long season. We have been back since the second week in January.

"I couldn't have asked for more from the players, management team, backroom and support team. There has been a real collective togetherness about the squad this year.

"We gave it everything that we had. And even if it didn't work out, I would have no complaints because everybody just gave their all."

Robbie states that Dublin's success has had a huge echo right across the capital.

"The standard of Dublin club football is just phenomenal. There's such a depth of quality in the Leagues. And that feeds into the Championship, which helps the county team as well."   

Gavin's remarkable team. The team walked on water in 2016. Leaving their foot-prints all across the city pavements.

As the decibel levels lowered in the days after Dublin's heroic victory over Mayo Dublin defender Philly McMahon remarked: "Saturday was, for me, one of the special ones, given all that surrounded it, such as the 1916 celebrations this year and then those two battles we had with Mayo."

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