GAA Football

Brilliant boys in blue Dublin leave Tyrone's Red Hands feeling green

Plenty of colours on the Hill but, once again, Dublin's boys in blue left Tyrone's Red Hands feeling green
Picture by Séamus Loughran 
Kenny Archer at Croke Park

YOU have to try something different in an All-Ireland Football final involving this terrific Dublin team.

The Dubs were racing relentlessly towards four-in-a-row, with Tyrone hoping – praying – that a fourth All-Ireland would be with them. So I got some of those four-colour pens. You know, the clicky ones, with red, blue, black, and green inks.

Sure, I could have just used a separate blue pen for Dublin and another red one for Tyrone, but where would have been the fun in that? And fun we got - for the opening quarter of this final anyway.

Whether in print or online, Tyrone truly had been ‘written off’. Only those eternal optimists, Antrim people (and a fear-filled Derry man), gave Mickey Harte’s men a chance of winning.

Amazingly, against almost all expectations, Tyrone were four points up on the mighty boys in blue. A lot of faces were turning slightly red. There was so much red on my notebook you’d have thought it belonged to an especially error-prone child with a very angry teacher.

Admittedly, a separate page, noting the actual mistakes made, was almost entirely blue – more so even than the Hill, which was stunned into silence, apart from the sizeable Tyrone contingent singing there.

For Tyrone to win, it was obvious that a lot had to go wrong for Dublin – and much was going wrong. Dean Rock put a free wide. That’s right. Dean Rock. Put a free wide. Wide.

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Stephen Cluxton sent a kick-out straight out over the sideline. Stephen ‘Clucko’ Cluxton. Straight out. Kieran McGeary put in a huge hit on Philly McMahon, which was greeted by a raucous roar from the red throats on the Hill. Philly bleeding McMahon (although he wasn’t actually bleeding, so he didn’t have to go off).

Magic Jack McCaffrey sent a shot short. John Small took a break from his hobby of pestering Peter Harte, strolled into space – and shot wide. Dean Rock put another free wide. That’s right. Dean Rock. Put another free wide. Wide.

Ciaran Kilkenny shot short. What the actual flip was going on?! Had we all been transported back in time by the presence of the Derry 1993 team to those days when, for a few years, Ulster teams baited – and ‘bate’ - the Dubs in their own backyard? Back in time to 2008 and 2005, when Tyrone destroyed Dublin?

For a few bewildering, incredible moments it seemed that the almost impossible might actually happen. Tyrone needed belief. Here was disbelief.

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Then ‘click’. A click so loud it sounded very much like a lot of hearts being broken. Dublin clicked, the blue pen took over my notebook, and the writing wasn’t just on the pages for Tyrone, it was on the wall.

The Red Hands had poked the big blue bear. All too soon Dublin turned the tables and caned the Red Hands, giving them a painful footballing lesson.

Tyrone started and finished well in Sunday's All-Ireland final but, in between, Dublin 'blue' them away
Picture by Philip Walsh

Arguably the moment that changed the game was ‘peak Dublin’. A mind-bogglingly accurate kick-out from Cluxton out to the left wing and a speeding McCaffrey, who picked out Kilkenny for a point.

Then the green ink came into play as the Dubs raised a green flag from the penalty spot, Paul Mannion deadly accurate. From four down, Dublin went seven up, and the Champagne was on ice, if it had ever even been kept in the cellars.

The black ink should have come out too, but, like the ref, I wasn’t taking names. We should have known. We did know, really, as did most of the Red Hand hordes heading south, more in hope than expectation.

Of a dozen final verdicts in a certain southern Saturday paper, all were for Dublin. The closest call was a two-point loss for Tyrone – from Peter Canavan.

When even ‘God’ isn’t on your side… And when Dublin-born GAA officials wished me ‘good luck’, in person and in writing, that simply says how confident they were. It’s much easier to be noble when you know you’re still going to win.

The light blue wristbands for the media were a cheeky touch, though. Giving me seat number 13 more so. Perhaps I’m paranoid (he reaches for the green ink again), but do all smart/ casual shirts really only come in light blue for journalists?

Almost all the pre-match verdicts were ‘Dublin by….’ And, by God, they’re good. Very, very good. Let’s be honest, they’re great. It might take a miracle to beat them.

The signs were there, of course. From more than eight years ago, when Dublin showed they were better than Tyrone. Then the next year better than everyone, even Kerry. As they were again in 2013. Unbeatable in Championship over the past four seasons, a remarkable record, and one that is set for extended play.

Just as ‘We’ve seen this movie before’ was the half-time feeling, so we’d heard those songs before, afterwards: ‘Molly Malone’. ‘The Boys are Back in Town’. ‘Dublin in the Rare Ould Times’. ‘Summer in Dublin’ (even though we’d just made it into the autumn, but there was no fall from grace for the Dubs). And we’ll probably hear them again over the next few seasons, as Dublin aim for a first ever footballing five-in-a-row.

You can probably write that particular betting slip in whatever colour ink you like. Damn. Just noticed: the barrel of my new pen? Light blue.

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