The congregation of celebrants in Parnell Park had barely thinned before Kilmacud Crokes were recalibrating their sights.
Sunday’s Dublin SFC final, a one-point Crokes win over Jude’s, was a day for those who like their football intense and low-scoring.
One misplaced pass in a frenzied finish could have killed the comeback. A single hasty shot and the day was Jude’s.
So nobody had to tell the Crokes players or management that Dublin senior titles are notoriously hard won or that they’re to be thoroughly enjoyed.
And yet, they knew from experience that one challenge isn’t long conquered at this time of year before another presents itself.
“Going on the road, they’re always going to be tough games,” noted Paul Mannion (below) afterwards. “We have lads there, Mark Vaughan is still in the dressing-room and playing away with us, he’s been preaching to us about the difficulty of Leinster Championship games and we have to be prepared for that now.
“It’s a completely different challenge. Wolfe Tones, obviously we wouldn’t have played them before so we have a bit of homework to do on them but I’m sure we’ll be ready.”
That sort of expectation comes as an unavoidable consequence of winning Dublin. No sooner had the final whistle blown than Crokes were installed at odds-on to win Leinster. They had, as of yesterday, also been priced as favourites to win the
All-Ireland club title.
“There’s a lot of young, hungry lads there that have been involved with Dublin minor teams, Dublin U-21s and they’re more than capable of stepping up on the big occasions and putting in a shift so that’s what they did,” as Mannion noted.
Mannion’s status as a central character on Dublin club football’s biggest day was inevitable.
Hampered by a back spasm, he nevertheless gave another taste of what Dublin missed this year. Afterwards though, he seemed the person in Parnell Park least interested about his future, other than of a very immediate or short-term nature.
Crokes manager Robbie Brennan wasn’t quite so reticent, expressing a personal opinion that Mannion’s days with Dublin were done, though he was keen to emphasise he had no hard information. Just a hunch.
“I think that’s the last you’ll see of Paul,” he reckoned. “I’d say he’ll answer that question himself. But I would think that’s it. What he has done in the game has been absolutely phenomenal for Dublin and now for Kilmacud. I’ll say he’ll just enjoy his football.
“That’s my view. Paul might have something different to say.”
For Brennan in particular, the next fortnight will be a unique experience.
His father Pat won championship medals with Wolfe Tones of Kilberry, this year’s Meath senior winners and Crokes’ first opponents in Leinster in two weeks’ time in Navan.
He was also co-manager, along with Johnny Magee, when Crokes last went into Leinster, back in 2018 when they were shocked by Mullinalaghta in the provincial final.
“It’s huge,” he admitted. “There’s 15 gone off that 2018 panel, which is a huge turnover in terms of players. You wish Cian O’Sullivan and Pat Burke, Stevie Williams, Davy Nestor – you wish they were all togged.
“But they weren’t available. They weren’t able to go at it this year. But they’re a huge part of what we’ve done.”
As it happened, Mullinalaghta were beaten on Sunday by Blessington but if revenge was any sort of motivating factor for Crokes this year, Mannion wasn’t letting on.
“No, that’s in the past, it’s in the past,” he insisted. “You’re driven by just going for championships now and just ... yeah, we have an opportunity to get into a Leinster semi-final in a couple of weeks’ time and that’s all we’re focusing on.”
Their performance last Sunday bodes well for the unique and wintery challenges that lie ahead.
The conditions might not have suited the stylists in the Crokes team but their grit shone through instead. Mannion himself took zealously to the challenge of reeling in Jude’s from five points back on a day when such a deficit might have been fatal.
They also had a vital contribution of 1-2 from the bench, a significant injection of late impetus.
“We’ve said it all year that that’s one of our strengths,” Mannion noted, “the strength of the panel, the strength of our squad and the lads that we have to bring on.
“Management have been thinking about the team that’s going to finish the game as well as the lads that’ll be starting.
“Callum Pearson, Aidan Jones there, all these lads coming on and popping up with some unbelievable scores to get us back into it and to get us one ahead.
“So yeah, a really good game and I think that will stand to us going into the Leinster Championship.”