Friday 15 December 2017

Eugene McGee: All-Ireland finalists talk each other up as D-day nears

Myths have been the staple diet of GAA conversations going back through the decades. Matters that are supposed to be gospel truth are believed by your average GAA person with astonishing absence of proof or even common sense when they are attached to the proviso: "My father often told me", or "sure your man couldn't play right in a big game unless he had a few pints the night before the game to settle his nerves".

Most of these outrageous comments are indeed myths or figments of overactive imaginations, but nevertheless in the coming week the myth-growing season will be thriving and the myths will come mainly from the direct participants in the Kerry and Dublin football camps. Creating myths is an integral part of the All-Ireland lead-up and it allows players and mentors to talk childish nonsense and still appear to be more or less sensible.

Myth no 1

Always tell the public your opponents and their players are better than yours, even though the reality is that if this sort of thing was actually believed by those speakers, they would be seriously undermining their own efforts. So instead, myths are created that Dublin have a fantastic backline, that their forwards are brilliant, as shown by the 22 points they scored against Tyrone, and that Alan Brogan is the best footballer in the country this year. Of course, Kerry are past masters at creating myths -- in all walks of life.

Dublin people will emphasise the myth that Colm Cooper wins All-Ireland finals on his own and that there was never such a thing as a bad Kerry backline.

Dublin have to work a bit harder at their myths this year because the majority of GAA fans believe Kerry are actually a better team, but Pat Gilroy had his myth machine up and running last week and it will be purring very smoothly for the rest of the week with a ready and willing media to help out.

Myth No 2

There is no sporting hatred at all between anybody involved in the two camps leading up to next Sunday's final. They are all the best of friends, half the Dublin players are direct Kerry descendants and they all have the height of respect for each other.

There won't be a blow struck in anger because they all love each other so much and admire each other to bits.

Oh yeah? We heard the same in the '70s, the time when we are all led to believe real Gaelic football was invented. But in the back of my mind, I remember a Kerry captain, Mickey Ned O'Sullivan, being almost beheaded by a massed attack by Dublin backs when he foolishly imagined that such challenges would never happen among players with so much respect for each other.

Watching the Sam Maguire Cup presentation from Mickey Ned's bed in the Mater Hospital probably changed some views on that. And then there was an infamous game in Gaelic Park, New York, when open warfare broke out on a miserable wet day and the piled-up vengeance of several recent Kerry-Dublin clashes was dished out by famous players. Another myth of the time blasted to pieces.

Myth No 3

A Kerry one this time. Dublin always lift their game when they play Kerry, so you cannot compare the teams just on the current form. And they have such a collection of great players that most of them would get on the Kerry team. Well, actually, the history of the past century sort of blows that particular Kerry myth into smithereens. The counties have met 25 times in the championship, Kerry have won a total of 17 times while Dublin have only 6 victories and there have been two draws between them.

No doubting the historical supremacy in that contest -- and another myth shattered.

Myth No 4

Some Kerry spokespeople this week will claim they are worried about what tactics the Dublin team will pull out of the hat for Sunday's final. "Those Dublin fellas are very cute, you know, they are always up to something, trying to catch out us simple Kerry people. I'd be very worried about what Gilroy and Whelan will come up with this time."

Well, Dublin lads may be cute in their own way but Kerry, deep down, are rarely upset about it. Back in 1955, the first All-Ireland final in which Dublin had an all native-born team, backboned by the great St Vincent's club at the time, there was a great myth in vogue that Kevin Heffernan -- who had adopted the then revolutionary role of roving full-forward -- would destroy the traditional style Kerry full-back of the day Ned Roche, who was not exactly an Olympic sprinter.

Dublin were raging hot favourites that day. Afterwards, when Kerry had won the game, Ned was asked did he follow Heffernan far out the field into unfamiliar territory. The answer was: "Yerra, no, I met him on his way back in."

Another myth about tactics smashed.

We will see more of these myths in the media all week as both camps try to talk themselves into the right frame of mind for the big game, but they all know in their hearts that talk means little on the way to Sunday. The team that plays the best football will win and reality will take over from myths once Joe McQuillan throws the ball in.

But sure these myths are good craic in All-Ireland week anyway!

•Lost trophies are nothing new in the GAA after times of celebration, and they usually reappear quickly. But the UCD GAA club is trying to trace a trophy that has been absent for nearly 20 years and it has great sentimental value.

It was a handcrafted trophy commemorating a former great Pomeroy and Tyrone player, Brendan Devlin, who was a UCD mentor for many years and also served on the Dublin County Board and was a Dublin selector.

After a Past v Present game the trophy, in the form of a silver cast of a sketch of Brendan, vanished. His wife Kay is anxious to retrieve it so maybe somebody can help out at 087 2417524 (Garret).

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