'I'd love to know where those thirty-odd thousand people have been' - Ex-Dubs star questions 'poor' semi-final support
THERE’S a familiar rhythm now to these pre All-Ireland weeks in Dublin.
Up in Glenalbyn, where Kilmacud Crokes launched their annual ‘Sevens’ tournament yesterday, there’s a striking case of déjà vu.
"Yeah, just reminiscing back to ’15," says Crokes’ and Dublin’s Ray Cosgrove, recalling the fraught build-up to that year’s All-Ireland SFC final, when like now, Cian O’Sullivan hair-trigger hamstrings threatened his involvement.
"I know Cian had to take a bit of time off work in preparation to get treatment twice or three times a day," he remembers
"From what I hear, it’s not near as bad. I think he was involved in a training camp down in Clare last weekend so he should be good enough to go next Sunday."
Jim Gavin said as much last week at Dublin’s pre All-Ireland press night but it is a sign of how important O’Sullivan has become to his team that no-one will be fully at ease until such time as he takes to the pitch on Sunday week.
"Look how influential he’s been in the role he played," Cosgrove adds.
"But even he’s occupied different positions over the last seven odd years.
"He’s played midfield, full-back, that sweeper role. So he’s so versatile that if Cian wasn’t involved, he’d be a big loss to Jim."
O’Sullivan is also one of just three players to have started every All-Ireland final Dublin have played in this decade, along with James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton, including the 2016 replay.
It’s a record that when combined with their medal haul, pushes those players into the realms of football’s immortals.
Should Dublin win on Sunday week, O’Sullivan will be one of 11 Dublin players (Stephen Cluxton, Philly McMahon, Mick Fitzsimons, Cian O’Sullivan, James McCarthy, Michael Darragh Macauley, Paul Flynn, Bernard Brogan, Kevin McManamon, Darren Daly and Eoghan O’Gara) who will win their sixth Celtic Cross, taking them level with the likes of Kerry legends John Egan and Darragh Ó Sé.
"I suppose it won’t be until their careers end that we can look back and compare them to the likes of Darragh, who would have been seen as a superstar of the game," Cosgrove points out.
"While they’re current players we probably don’t appreciate what we’re dealing with at the moment.
"It’s down to the character. It’s down to the individual,” the 2002 All Star continues. “We know how hard it is to even win back-to-back All-Irelands. Never mind going for four in-a-row.
"But I think being part of a group that is so driven … and I think it’s down to the characters and the individuals that are able to motivate themselves and know they are part of something special.
"The lifespan of an inter-county footballer is only so wide that they know there are only so many opportunities to win an All-Ireland.
"Cian is obviously one of those. James McCarthy and Clucko.
"But they’re cogniscant of the fact it could all end with one injury."
Familiarity with this exalted looming fixture, Cosgrove observes, has also dulled the senses in Dublin slightly.
When Kilkenny won their fourth All-Ireland hurling title in-a-row in 2008, the muted nature of their supporters’ celebrations was widely noted.
Quite how Dublin’s fans would treat such an achievement is impossible to predict from here.
But their close recent acquaintance to success has affected the interest in the earlier parts of their campaign.
"I was walking down Jones’ Road going to Croke Park for the semi-final and it seemed like a League game," Cosgrove points out.
"The attendance was so poor.
"I was really scratching my head thinking ‘what’s going on here’?
"For 54,000 to show up, it was disappointing from a Dublin fans’ perspective. Then you’ll have a lot of guys who will come out from under the woodwork for Sunday week and will be occupying seats in Croke Park.
"I’d love to know," Cosgrove adds, "where those thirty-odd thousand people have been and why they weren’t behind the team in the semi-final?"