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All-Ireland Championship: Cluxton just so cool

By David Kelly

Without a hint of emotion, Stephen Cluxton nonchalantly greeted Joe McQuillan's whistle by stooping to gather his belongings in one of the corners of the Davin End goals.

He then walked slowly towards the tunnel beneath the Hogan Stand that would carry him to tranquility away from the maddening crowd just a few minutes later.

He had the quiet air of a production hand routinely clocking off an assembly line, not a man who had just seconds earlier delivered a nerveless kick to liberate a team and a people who, in the words of their captain Bryan Cullen in his acceptance speech had been “to hell and back” in their quest for this place.

No fuss, no fanfare with Cluxton, the most influential goalkeeper of his generation. Just a need to detach.

Eventually he would come back out and share the moment with his team mates as Cullen hoisted Sam to the sky but a lap of honour to the hordes that had waited behind? Well that would be a show of public emotion too far for him.

Not a lot of people can claim to know Stephen Cluxton, not even those closest to him in a dressing room that his kick has brought so much salvation to.

Cluxton is an intensely private individual. He observes the practice of keeping that distance with rigid discipline.

The man who lists “not speaking to the media” as the best advice he has ever received in his personal profile on the Dublin website is not for sale to any PR company flogging a brand and seeking a face and a voice to draw attention to it.

But hand him a ball 35 metres to one side of the Hill 16 goals in Croke Park in injury time and ask him to convert it to claim a first All-Ireland title for Dublin in 16 years and only a third championship win in 77 years and you wouldn't really want anyone else standing over it.

Bernard Brogan certainly didn't want it any other way.

“I never had a shadow of a doubt that he was going to get that. It went right over the black spot. He has got a great mental ability to kick that without any nerves. It shows his strength. He is an unbelievable talent and we are lucky to have him.”

Pat Gilroy's faith was unwavering too. Introducing Cluxton as the team's right-sided place kicker from a certain distance out has been one of those left field moves from the management that has brought a very definite plan to fruition.

“He's hit about a million frees from there since he's been given the opportunity to kick them and that's the place he practises from,” admitted Gilroy.

“We all had great faith in him because taking a free like that wouldn't bother him or faze him.”

In the opposite corner though it was despair for the Kingdom.

“It's tough to lose an All-Ireland any day but we looked like we were in control of that situation there,” said Kerry manager Jack O'Connor.

“I'm not too sure what was left, eight or 10, four points up. We had come back from three down. To go four up took a huge effort out of our fellas.

“But in the general scheme of things, I have to be very proud of the way our lads played.

“They played well and we rode with the punches for a long time, played a lot of good football in the second half but of course to lose the way we did was devastating.”

And for nobody more than Declan O'Sullivan, whose hapless turnover unleashed a comeback that had seemed incomprehensible only minutes earlier.

“I'm not going to be hanging any guy out to dry,” added O’Connor, “but of course the goal was a huge momentum-changer because we couldn't see Dublin getting it back on points..

“But the goal was worth more than a goal really, because it just gave them life and gave them energy in the critical last five minutes to let them go on and win the game.”

Belfast Telegraph

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