Monday 23 September 2019

The other side: '2011 was sliding doors moment'

Dara Ó Cinnéide tells Joe Davitt how first title transformed Dubs

29 May 2005; Dara O Cinneide, Kerry. Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Football Championship, Tipperary v Kerry, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
29 May 2005; Dara O Cinneide, Kerry. Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Football Championship, Tipperary v Kerry, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Joe Davitt

DARA Ó Cinnéide didn’t see any warning signs in February, 2010.

Reflecting now on Dublin's  Division 1 victory (1-12 to 1-10) over Kerry in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney he reflects: "Leaving the terrace that day I wasn't worried. Ok, they've come on a lot since we hammered them last year – they needed to."

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Six months on from the 'Startled Earwigs', Dublin had won their first game on Kerry soil since 1982.

If the victory was a psychological boost for Pat Gilroy's troops, the deployment of David Henry as an extra defender also pointed to the lessons learned from 2009.

"I don't think we'd have taken too much notice of a league game in Killarney. We had been beaten by Tyrone in Killarney in 2003 as well which in hindsight was a big event for them more so than for Kerry, likewise for this Dublin team when they beat us in 2010."

26 February 2011; Bryan Cullen, left, and Paul Flynn, Dublin, celebrate after the game. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 3, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

All-Irelands aren't won in February, as they say, so when did Kerry folk actually sit up and take notice of the Dubs, reinventing themselves under Gilroy?

"I thought in '09 that they were in a great position to beat Kerry and when that didn't happen I thought this is a team that will never beat us.

"Kerry lost to Down in 2010 but on the same day Dublin played a game against Tyrone and it was the first time we saw this retention of possession from kick-outs from Tyrone. They kicked every single thing short and I think Gilroy was happy to leave them do that and try and absorb it.

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"They got lucky, Tyrone kicked something like 17 wides that day and they probably shudda, wudda, cudda beaten Cork in an All-Ireland semi-final only for a clumsy tackle by Ross McConnell. Not pinning it on one person, it was an example of how they (Dublin) faltered with the finishing line in sight," he adds.

"Leading into the 2011 final, no more than any Kerry spectator or team, you expect to win. I thought it was Kerry's to lose. And because we had that history with Dublin, recent history in 2009 and all the years that I would have been playing, that soft underbelly was there – no doubt about it. The old gimmickry that they had, walking to the Hill fed in to all that.

"It took until the final moments of 2011 for it to sink home with Kerry that they had been beaten by a better team," adds Ó Cinnéide (right).

"In the years previous to that you had Kerry, Armagh, Tyrone, Cork to a lesser extent hopping off each other.

"Dublin have had it all to themselves, pretty much, since then. You had the Donegal game in 2014 and Mayo game in 2012, but other than that this Dublin group have had complete dominance.

"I remember Páidí Ó Sé, Lord have mercy on him, saying it at the time alright: 'We've created a monster here'.

"He sensed it. He was the first fella to say that this is the start of something big for these lads. Even at that I didn't see it, Kerry will be back.

"To this day there are people in Kerry who say that was their 'sliding doors' moment. We opened the door for them, we created that 'monster'. This was validation. So any future games when Dublin would have played Kerry they had that in the bank to say 'these lads aren't that great at all, we can beat them'."  

The dramatic conclusion to the 2011 All-Ireland final unlocked the door to a bright new future for Dublin football.

"That was a massive game. The free where Barry John Keane leaves his leg, McManamon goes over it – you'd say unlucky. Cluxton nails it, the rest is history as they say.

"The conspiracy theories down in Kerry were that Declan O'Sullivan should have been taken off, shouldn't have been on the pitch – he was concussed.

"I don't think he was. I think he was slightly groggy if anything. There was a few incidents in that game, you can point to double hops. They entered a folklore down in Kerry... when you lose an All-Ireland in Kerry you say: Who was the referee that day? It's just a default setting down here.

"I remember when we played Limerick in the early noughties we just about kept them down. There were times when they should have beaten us but we kept their head under water and they eventually drowned. If we had done that in 2011 to Dublin I'd question would the course of history have taken a different shape?

"We're all talking now about Dublin's monopoly, Dublin resources and all that ... that was always there.

"Population was always there, the coaching had just about started. The 'Blue Wave' was being laughed about in those years as a kind of fanciful notion. When it was validated then with an All-Ireland you couldn't hold that wave away then after that. The only surprise is 2012 and 2014 – which they didn't manage to win. They obviously learned their lesson from 2014 because they haven't been as open since."

18 September 2011; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy celebrates at the end of the game. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

They say in Kerry that they never win those 'classics' regularly shown on GAA Gold, with the 1977 semi-final a case in point. The next instalment of the Dublin v Kerry rivalry – the 2013 semi-final definitely falls into that category also.

"What a game ... you can distill it down and make it very simple and say it all comes down to Michael Darragh Macauley winning that ball, flicking it on to McManamon and moves on to the Hill.

"You mention Gooch for example, Gooch was amazing in the first half, very quiet in the second half because Cian O'Sullivan moves out of midfield and moves back and does the job that he did for a number of years on him before he went sweeping. He was a damn fine man-marker.

"Gooch still had an influence on the game but couldn't keep it up. The stuff he was doing in the first-half was breath-taking.

"I still have a clear vision of Michael Darragh Macauley ... Marc Ó Sé, David Moran and Fionn Fitzgerald. There was a third Kerry body there. The game is there. Macauley gets a fist, flicks it on and it opens up.

"That's the abiding memory I have, Moran going backwards, Marc going forwards and Fitzgerald on the ground and Macauley gets his flick away and it's ohh ... here we go!

"Into that goal where Darby gets his goal, McManamon gets his goal two years earlier, Cluxton gets his free. It always that goal!"   

18 September 2011; Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton kicks the winning point in extra time from a free kick. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Ó Cinnéide again goes back to the 2011 win as the genesis for their many comebacks since, including that 2013 semi-final. Where previous Dublin team would have wilted the mental strength gained from winning an All-Ireland has stood to them.

"It all makes sense now," Ó Cinnéide says.

"The question is why didn't it happen in my playing time? They had those numbers they had that support, the coaching was just about starting at the time.

"That 2011 final definitely gave them massive belief that they could beat the likes of Kerry. Dublin compete with themselves in terms of excellence, in terms of 'being as good as they can be' in the lingo that they have. If they don't win that 2011 game a lot of this doesn't happen I'd say."

 "If they don't win that 2011 game a lot of this doesn't happen I'd say"

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