The match is over and, painful though it is for us to admit it, Dublin won. They’re the champions. They are, in fact, the three-in-a-row champions, the first time such a feat has been achieved since Kerry completed a trio of All-Irelands back in 1986.
That was a great Kerry team. I saw them in the flesh several times, including on the day they completed the three-in-a-row, and I’ve yet to see a team like them. This Dublin side is, without question, the best since then. So, yes, that means they’re great too.
But great teams and, in particular, those who support them need to be good winners. Unlike their Kerry counterparts back in the Eighties, Dublin have a long way to travel to hit this mark.
It starts right at the very top with Dublin. Jim Gavin’s often gnomic public utterances would get up the noses of reasonable people at the best of times but it’s his downright hypocrisy that, from our perspective, surely rankles more.
Early in his tenure, Gavin used to proclaim regularly about how his team would play the game the way it’s meant to be played. To be fair, in those early years they brought a fresh and exciting attack-minded philosophy to the table. But Gavin’s Dublin were never shy, right from the very start, about using the dark arts as well.
The 2013 final was won – in the last season prior to the introduction of the black card – thanks to persistent fouling and drag downs of our lads during those final frantic moments as Dublin defended a one-point lead. The same blatant cynicality was on display in the dying seconds of last Sunday’s final, with a good half-dozen of the Dublin team committing black card offences by wrestling their markers to the ground as David Clarke was lining up his restart.
It’s not just last-minute stuff either, though Cormac Costello’s actions after coming on deserve a mention here as well. Dublin’s normal game has cynicality hard-wired into it, in particular in relation to the accidentally-on-purpose way they constantly check opposition runs. Only very rarely – and then accompanied by loud ululations of protest – do they ever pick up merited black cards for such infractions.
Let me be completely clear. I’ve no problem with such tactics and, in relation to the injury time stuff witnessed last Sunday, I’d hope we’d do the same in similar circumstances. What I have a problem with is Jim Gavin making claims about how his team plays the game which are screamingly at odds with how they do actually play it. If Gavin were honest in this regard, he and his team would earn a lot more respect.
Similarly with that nonsense he came out with ahead of this year’s final, when he claimed they didn’t bring a performance to last year’s decider and were somehow fortunate to win it. Funny that – every single time Gavin’s team play us they seem to leave their wipe-the-floor-with-the-opposition performances on the bus.
Could that have anything to do with the quality we bring to the table? Maybe, just maybe, Gavin now has enough evidence in front of him to draw this conclusion. He would, then, lose nothing by having the good grace to admit it. He might even earn a bit of credit by doing so.
And then there’s the real dark arts. I still fume when I think about the Lee Keegan affair last year. That dirty tricks campaign, which no-one will ever convince me wasn’t sanctioned at the highest levels within Dublin’s management team, was, lest we forget, waged by a county then aiming to win its 26th All-Ireland facing a county that hadn’t won it for 65 years.
A county with ten times our population, enjoying several in-built advantages over us – from everything to financial muscle, geography, training facilities, perpetual home advantage and a compliant media willing to do its bidding – but was still hell-bent on doing what it could to curb the influence of our best player in the replay. And the worst bit about it is that it worked.
That dirty tricks operation also let loose and gave encouragement to a vicious online campaign, waged across social media and below the line on media websites, by a particularly uncouth and loutish element within Dublin’s support base. Expressing extreme opinions and projecting hatred are, of course, core to what social media is all about and there was plenty of this kind of stuff aimed at us.
Lee got the worst of it but others, notably Cillian and Aidan, got truckloads of abuse as well, as did the wider county too. Part of the flotsam and jetsam from that campaign even continues to wash up here on the site from time to time.
Did Dublin GAA lift a finger to rein in this bile from within their own supporters? They did not. In fact, the official Dublin GAA Twitter account tweeted a Cheerio message (quickly deleted when met with a storm of outrage) when Lee was unjustly black carded in the replay.
And now we have Charlie Redmond, sticking it to Lee again following the replay. And, of course, all those undesirable creatures have once more crawled out from under the rocks to join in online.
This particular incident is, to my mind, even worse than last year. The match is over. Dublin have won. Is it no longer sufficient for the winners to enjoy their success and leave their opponents to lick their wounds? Is an essential part of winning nowadays all about spending most of your time mercilessly goading the team you’ve (in this instance so very narrowly) beaten?
With no apparent trace of irony, Redmond bemoans in the same piece – given significant coverage, by the way, on the website of the so-called national broadcaster – that Dublin haven’t been recognised as great champions. It would appear that being hailed as the Greatest Team Ever isn’t enough for some people.
Most are willing to accept that Dublin are great champions. But, due in no small part to everything from Jim Gavin’s weasel words to the actions of a coterie of ex-players in the media to the obscenities being pumped out by their looney wing on social media, some people in Dublin have shown they haven’t the first idea about what it means to be good winners.
Until these people cop on to this basic fact, the public affection they seem to crave so desperately will, unlike the success their county has had on the field, continue to remain beyond their grasp. A bit of magnanimity in victory would mark an overdue first step in the right direction.