We met at the Annesley, many of us filled with trepidation for the day ahead and the media hype that almost negated that there was another team. But THE SANER AMONG US saw the dangers and while the initial order of the day was to secure tickets for all, some of us were prepared to remain outside and bear heartbreak away from the crowds if/when it came.
The tickets materialised and it mattered little that they were spread all over the grounds. We made our way to Croker through confident seas of red and green – Dublin supporters few and far between saying little!
My Cumann ticket was “down at the front”, I could have been an umpire if needs be I was so close to the Canal end line! And almost behind the goal! I thanked God for the Big Screens as that’s where I viewed most of the play!!!
The minor game was underway and the few supporters there were cheering on Kerry who were absolutely flying. Talk of good games rattle around but in the end any victory will suffice – wide or narrow margins if it’s a win.
The grounds filled and for those who imply that Croker is a “home” venue for the Dubs, it was now transformed into McHale Park – red and green the order of the day and their voices completely overshadowing “Cmon you boys”.
Compelling. That’s the only word to describe the first half. It wasn’t the best football in the purest sense, but you couldn’t take your eyes off the intense action. Mayo have shot themselves in the foot so often on the biggest of days and they seemed to have done it again as they conceded an utterly avoidable goal as early as the second minute. Johnny Small hit a 20-yard pass to Con O’Callaghan on the turn. The Young Footballer of the Year elect just kept on going and when he was in range stuck it in the back of the net past David Clarke.
Mayo didn’t panic though and 35 minutes later they trotted up the tunnel leading by one 1-05 to 0-09. They limited the Dubs to just six scores, four from play, in the first half and made the defending champions look decidedly ordinary and out of ideas at times. We were worried!!!!
Dublin exhibited far more composure at the start of the second half, with Gavin making two big changes. Without much fuss we slid in to a two point lead, Jason Doherty squandering a great goal chance for Mayo when one-on-one with Cluxton. Mannion had a chance for Dublin too but it was saved!
Both teams went down a man just past the three quarter-hour mark Small picked up a second yellow. But stupidly, Donal Vaughan weighed in with an elbow on Small and got a straight red – had he held his head Mayo would have had a numerical advantage. The tension didn’t relent and Mayo’s Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan raised the green flag for the second year in-a-row.
But the Dubs clung on. The talk in the build-up was that Dublin’s bench would win it and so it proved. Diarmuid Connolly came on and kicked a point and won the free which Rock slotted over. He will go down in the history books as the man who kicked Dublin to a three in-a-row. The Ballymuner stood nervelessly over the free six minutes into stoppage time. It all rested on this kick and he sent it sailing over the bar at the Canal End, joyous fans nearly shaking the roof down at the old ground.
There were two more minutes of play, but the Boys in Blue managed to play keep ball and run down the clock. They are now up there with the greatest teams in the annals of Gaelic football. Sam Maguire will stay in the capital for the third winter in succession – the first time this has happened since 1921-23.
I had to sympathise with the Mayo supporters around me …. It had to be pure torture for them. It’s hard to admit but they were every bit as good as Dublin, there’s even a strong argument to be made to say they were the better team for long stretches. But the only stat that counts at the end is the final score and once again they came up short.
Back to the Annesley for a night of song and celebrations! 3 in a row – might never see it again!! More to the point would I ever have the stamina for it again????
The younger ones took of to Coppers and some were even seen around the town the next day!
Another generation can take up the fight!!!!