Sunday 15 December 2019

Rampant McManamon the patron saint of Meath's lost cause

Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against Padraic Harnan, Meath
Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against Padraic Harnan, Meath
David Kelly

David Kelly

As an exercise in humility, it was like Da Vinci saying he just threw a few colours on a piece of paper and suddenly emerged with the picture of a serenely smiling dame.

"Ah, I just got on the end of a few scores," deflected Kevin McManamon. Within a deluge of 3-20, perhaps one could be forgiven the momentarily mis-placed memory of a fine 1-5.

Perhaps this was the day when the term impact sub was consigned to history; certainly, whatever the updated version of the infamous 'blue book' may be, it is indelibly written that individualism means nothing and everything to a Dublin team seemingly destined for greatness.

On this day, McManamon's impact didn't require a substitute. After no little time, it became apparent that the greatest competition in yesterday's Leinster final was that produced within the champions, not the illusory contest presented by the challengers.

Less than halfway into the first-half, as Meath meandered up the field with flimsy intentions, there was an almost unspeakable dereliction of duty on Dublin's behalf.


For, as Stephen Bray drifted aimlessly towards the Dublin posts, it was as if the champions bestowed upon him a silent decree; take your point, son, we are already planning our next attack. They allowed him do so; Dublin snaffled another restart, claimed with almost impossible physical dexterity by Diarmuid Connolly, and McManamon claimed the first of his four opening act points from play.

In this moment, the contest was distilled into its meaningful form in terms of advancing this year's All-Ireland championships; a Leinster title may have been up for grabs but, in essence, this game was about fine-tuning the best available options for Dublin to retain their Sam Maguire.

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Within moments of that settling rebuff to Bray's point; the contest was brutally consigned to a burial plot.

Meath, sadly, brooked no argument in their attempts at their Sisyphean task; indeed, they were busy enough trying to counter their own deficits as much as Dublin's advantages while the game was still technically alive. Their late switch, bringing Graham Reilly into a defensive position, infected their defence with a virus instead of immunising it from the blue wave of attacks; by the time they had cottoned on to who they were supposed to be marking, Dublin were out of sight.

The sense in which the more competitive aspect of this match was played out within blue ranks was neatly parcelled by the delivery of the opening goal which effectively killed this contest; blue-clad supporters argued at half-time as to which Brogan brother delivered the decisive blow.

Those who watched more closely would have been enthused by the clinical intervention of McManamon, for, as Jack McCaffrey injected pace to the move, it was the so-called 'supersub' who incised the precision.

This pair, aside from McManamon's start the last day against Wexford, have been deemed unworthy of starts in this Dublin side this summer; yesterday was their declaration of intent as the unseemly rush to squeeze into Jim Gavin's starting 15 gains momentum.

It is Gavin's genius that, as much as he inculcates the familiar mantra that names are more important than numbers, the names themselves remain excessively obsessed by wanting to be numbered amongst that coveted first 15.

As he outlined in this newspaper only two days ago, McManamon's cheery nature doesn't absolve him from a feral desire which screams the intent that, as much as he wants to achieve for his team, he also wants to achieve for himself.

Balancing this steely determination of the individual to provide the best for himself to dovetail with the best for his team is the underlying motivation of this Dublin team and its unflappable commander.

McManamon's determination was writ large; his scores from play, not to mention his goal assist, rendered redundant his erstwhile status as that of a mere "squad player."

As he tore up and down the flanks, his work-rate matched his score accumulation; more naturally talented players may have surrounded him,but the Jude's man owned the afternoon.

A man who was once better known for providing the unpredictable was now revelling in delivering a predictable, steady supply of coherence to a fluid, seamless attacking display of brio and invention. Names and numbers flitted in and out of the action in a blue blur but the overall momentum remained unchallenged; the individual and collective drive always retained its formidable intent.

Trash time came early but Dublin never descended to its perils; hence, Paul Flynn tracked back 70 yards to make a tackle that, in the context of the contest, was utterly meaningless.

But, in the context of this team, it meant everything. Both to him as an individual and to his team, as a guiding light to the incessant demands required of every unit in this extraordinary collective.

This was a comfort blanket; their greater challenge will be to negotiate he defensive blanket from northern foes. You more than suspect they will have the answers.

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