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Declan Bogue: How Dublin have shunned 'five in a row' hype ahead of All Ireland final

Silver service: Dublin’s Philip McMahon lifts Sam Maguire after the triumph over Tyrone in last year’s decider
Silver service: Dublin’s Philip McMahon lifts Sam Maguire after the triumph over Tyrone in last year’s decider
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Two days after Dublin had eaten Mayo alive in a devastating All-Ireland semi-final display, they gathered up a few players, some members of the management team and sat down to fulfil their media obligations ahead of the decider.

We say fulfil because Dublin have now far gone past the notion of entertaining the media. However, the assembled scribes, clad in their scruffy trainers and Lyle and Scott, were delighted to see midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley in their midst.

Good old Mick. He gives great copy. He might even talk about the early-morning raves he attends, his love of yoga or the work he does with those on the margins of society.

It didn't pan out like that.

It's not like he didn't try. He'd throw out the odd morsel here and there but he kept it really light and didn't particularly get into the follow-up questions. At one stage, he turned to Seamus McCormack - Dublin's overbearing media manager - and laughed: "This is a horrendous interview, do you know that? It's actually one of the worst I've ever done, he'll be delighted with it."

Other interview targets played along similar lines. Nothing was said that could be reshaped into anything approaching ammunition for Kerry players.

If there was a thought that 'hype' - that indefinable quality - could play a role in unsettling Dublin breaking all records and winning five consecutive All-Ireland titles, then it all withers away in an oddly dampened down build-up to this Sunday's showpiece.

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If Dublin win it - sorry, I should say when Dublin win it - there will not be any recognition of a great team.

Undoubtedly they are. But the narrative will instantly switch to the natural advantages they enjoy and the financial programme that has enabled them to properly exploit these, while other counties live perilous hand-to-mouth existences.

That might sound like begrudgery. It's not. There is a recognition that the Dublin of the last five years have been excellent teams, without argument the best the game has seen, while another facet of it can co-exist that they have been helped get to this point by financial favouritism.

Another element is that because of Dublin's excellence, their games have not been in doubt. They won their matches in Leinster by the following margins; 26, 15, 16. In the Super8s, it was 13, 18 and 6.

Where's the excitement when the outcome is entirely predictable?

They beat a knackered Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final by 10 points, and God knows what they might do to this Kerry team if their rivals are not bang on it from the first whistle to the last.

So what is hype, with all that in the background?

The last side to face down the prospect of five-in-a-row were operating in a different world.

Back then hype was inescapable in the world of Kerry football, but they had invited it upon themselves.

During the middle of their run, they organised a world tour.

Before there were blue-chip companies like AIG straining to sponsor Dublin, Kerry players had a huge role in fundraising for this venture. In the downtime before the National League, they played a number of challenge matches up north where the bucket would be passed around.

Pat Spillane colourfully recalled landing in a county to be fed roast beef and barrels of porter. They would go out the next day and take a beating from a motivated opposition. The home team would leave feeling good about themselves for the league and Kerry would head back south with beef rumbling in their tummies, hangovers and another down payment to an exotic location.

By the time 1982 rolled around, everyone was in on the act.

A single was released by the band Galleon ahead of the final, called 'Five In A Row'.

Some players, when asked where they could get hold of the single, had bought copies in bulk themselves to sell.

'Five In A Row' t-shirts were being sold in the stands as crowds of thousands filled the pews in Fitzgerald Stadium to watch the team train.

Hucksters were everywhere round the team and, for certain, it infected the thinking of some players.

Naturally, there were other factors for their eventual defeat. Spillane's knee gave out and, while he spent all year trying to get back, and eventually played in the final, he was miles off. The loss of Jimmy Deenihan through injury left them short-stacked.

It's not as if their final opponents Offaly were lying in the long grass, however. Their coach, the late Eugene McGee, was a journalist and he agreed to having fellow journalist David Walsh train with the team the week before the final.

Compare that to the arm's-length approach Dublin have used now.

They do not have to raise funds for tours. While there may be songs written about their glories, they are strictly underground affairs and certainly would not be troubling the heavy rotation schedules of radio shows.

In 2011, Dublin players were told to tell their families not to ask about football as they tried to win their first All-Ireland since 1995, and let others handle tickets requests.

Now, it's just another season coming round.

Kingdom cubs are talented, but final comes just too soon

People can dismiss Kerry manager Peter Keane for being the walking embodiment of Yerra-talk - a local term meaning to have a complete lack of interest in any given topic - all they want, but there was a shrewdness to how he dealt with the media once Tyrone were put to the sword in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Huge potential: David Clifford

"I left the dressing room below and (goalkeeper) Shane Ryan was on the phone to Gerard Murphy of Vincent Murphy's Sports in Castleisland," he began, as members of the media wondered just where this anecdote might turn. "His biggest problem was if he would get two pairs of boots or three pairs of boots, because he'd have the boots worn out so much from kicking the ball out to Dublin."

Guffaws ensued, with the Kingdom boss getting up off the table only to issue a final riposte: "We'll come up in three weeks and we'll do our best."

In some ways, even mentioning Ryan's name is a high-risk policy. Although he had some time on the panel under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Keane has made him his main man throughout the league and clearly is in thrall to his 76% kick-out retention.

Ryan is another of the Kerry young guns expected to do a veteran's job in this All-Ireland final.

Tom O'Sullivan is another who springs to mind. The 22-year-old has kept Cillian O'Sullivan, Jamie Brennan, James Carr and Paul Kerrigan scoreless, while he achieved the same against Tyrone's Peter Harte and blotted him out of all involvement in the semi-final.

Jason Foley struggled at times against Cathal McShane, although that may be attributed to the poor defensive shape Kerry persisted with in their first half against the Red Hands. Nevertheless, he will probably be on Dean Rock duty this Sunday.

Gavin Crowley, Killian Spillane, David Clifford and Gavin Whyte are all brilliant. Clifford may even end up one of the best to play the game.

But are they ready for Sunday? It's doubtful. This All-Ireland final against Dublin comes too soon for them.

Belfast Telegraph


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