Friday 20 September 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Dubs say five just a number, but don't count on it'


Mikey Sheehy said the occasion got to him in 1982. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Mikey Sheehy said the occasion got to him in 1982. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Michael Darragh Macauley let on that he wasn't even sure how long Dublin's All-Ireland run had extended, although he did manage to 'guess' correctly.

"I've been hearing a different number every year for the last number of years. I believe the number is five, is it?" he said.

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Michael Darragh MacAuley of Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Darragh MacAuley of Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It sounds about as convincing as a child asking how many more sleeps until Christmas Day while knowing it down to the last hour.

Yes, Michael it's five, a haul that no football or hurling team has ever accumulated. Macauley insisted it's something he hasn't thought about.

Ever other Dublin player, plus Jim Gavin, have offered the same stoic response whenever the five-in-a-row was mentioned this year.

Fair enough. They were hardly going to say, 'Yes, of course it's on our minds.' The approach in the Kerry camp, outwardly at least, was the same, prior to their five-in-a-row bid in 1982.

"They have been told to forget about it. To us, it's just another All-Ireland final," commented Mick O'Dwyer the week before the game.

Jack O'Shea, Footballer of the Year in 1980 and 1981, knows all about the five-in-a-row build-up and still insists it's not a factor.

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"There's too much made it of it really. If you ask any Dublin player, this is just another All-Ireland final to be won. It doesn't matter whether it's the first or the fifth," he said.

And yet! O'Shea knows what happened in 1982 when a Kerry team, regarded as being close to invincible, lost to Offaly.

The Kerry team of that era were better than Offaly, but on one day, previous form counted for nothing.

A brilliant achievement by Offaly, but nonetheless, it was a one-off. That squad won no more Leinster titles, let alone All-Irelands, whereas Kerry re-grouped after a similar last-minute defeat by Cork in 1983 to return to No. 1 in 1984-'85-'86.

So did five-in-a-row pressure get to Kerry in 1982? We'll never know, but Mikey Sheehy had some very interesting things to say in an interview I did with him more than 20 years later.

Sheehy, the best finisher I have ever seen, had always played with the coolness of a man for whom every game was a mere kick-around, yet something changed that day.

Crucially, his second-half penalty was saved by Martin Furlong at a time when Kerry were a point ahead.

"My legs were like rubber all through the game. I felt stiff and couldn't get any real movement going," Sheehy recalled.

"Maybe it was the occasion but, for whatever reason, I didn't get into the game. The way I took the penalty reflected the way I was playing. I wasn't going well and it showed in the way I took the penalty, although I don't want to play down Martin Furlong's save in any way."

Now, if Sheehy, the man who had the nerve to chip Paddy Cullen with a free at a time when Kerry were losing to Dublin four years earlier, felt different in what was his seventh All-Ireland final, it's logical to assume his team's five-in-a-row bid had something to do with it.

But then strange things can happen when the five-timer beckons. Granted, Kilkenny hurlers lost Henry Shefflin early on and were also without Brian Hogan in the 2010 hurling final against Tipperary, but it still doesn't explain their second-half collapse, which left them losing by eight points.

They had conceded only three goals in the previous four finals, yet were taken for four in 2010.

Did the five-in-a-row pressure get to them? Who knows, but the fact that they came back to win the 2011 and 2012 finals and two more in 2014 and 2015, suggests it might have.

Further back, Cork hurlers' five-timer bid ended against Tipperary in the 1945 Munster semi-final in a game where the Irish Independent noted that "many of the Cork players were off colour for some reason". A year later, the Rebels were back on colour and winning another All-Ireland.

In 1933, Kerry took their five-in-a-row ambitions into the All-Ireland semi-final against Cavan, which for some reason was played in Breffni Park.

Kerry led for most of the way before Cavan drew level late on, before grabbing the winning goal in the final minute.

'The Kerry Reporter' newspaper described how the team, which were without captain, Joe Barrett, lacked "their customary dash". Five-in-a-row pressure?

Wexford footballers in 1919 were the only other team to bid for the five-timer, but their run ended against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. All of which goes to show that the five-in-a-row is mighty elusive.

Calling the All-Ireland final where it's on the line 'just another game' risks irritating the gods, who, for some reason, have never sanctioned a five-in-a-row.

Well, at least not up to now.

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