GAA Football

Delighted midfielder Brian Fenton hails four in-a-row for mighty Dublin

Brian Fenton (left) has never lost a Championship match for Dublin
Picture by Philip Walsh
Andy Watters at Croke Park

THERE was a peach of a shiner around his right eye but Brian Fenton’s smile was as broad as the Liffey as he looked ahead to another night celebrating another Sam Maguire.

His black eye was a badge of honour, a souvenir of a fierce midfield battle at Croke Park yesterday and for him it was a small price to pay for a fourth Celtic Cross.

The Raheny clubman chipped over two quality points in the second half as the Dubs held off a game, but limited, rally from Tyrone to clinch Sam for the fourth time on-the-trot.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Fenton.

“Straight after the game, to see your family and your friends and share it with the players is something so unique and special. It’s just incredible. An hour has gone by so the dust is sort of settling but it just feels amazing. To share that with those lads, to play for Dublin in this era, to be so privileged to be healthy and young and playing in Croke Park is just a dream come true. It’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable, incredible, unique… Those words should strike fear into the hearts of every other county player and manager in the country because Dublin are nowhere near to being satisfied with winning.

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Success is breeding success and the form, skill and commitment of Fenton (25), his clubmate Brian Howard (21) and rookies like Eoin Murchan (22) will have left no one watching in any doubt that the Dubs will be the team to beat next year and the year after that…

An enterprising start from Tyrone had left them 0-5 to 0-1 behind but the Dubs never looked back after Paul Mannion’s penalty leveled the scores on 19 minutes.

“We really needed the penalty at the time,” said Fenton.

“Tyrone started with a serious intensity so we needed that penalty to bring us back in but, look, we always knew it’s a 70-80 minute match and we knew we had time and the lads to come in off the bench. We didn’t worry, we didn’t panic, obviously it wasn’t the ideal start but we stuck at it and thankfully we came through.”

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Fenton hasn’t lost a Championship game in a Dublin shirt and his partnership with James McCarthy in midfield yesterday was pivotal in giving the Dubs the platform to kick on and win the game.

“It (never losing a Championship game) is not something I particularly think about,” he said.

“I am one of 15, one of 30, one of 26 on a match day and I’m not just saying that. I have some part to play but there’s a lot going on, not just me. It’s amazing to play in this era, to play with those players, to play under Jim Gavin… It’s unbelievable. It’s so special and I’m just so lucky to be a part of it.”

Tyrone’s players stood in unison, applauding the champions as they climbed and then descended the steps of the Hogan Stand. But from the first whistle to the last, the Red Hands fought tooth-and-nail for every ball as they tried to rip the Sam Maguire out of Dublin’s hands.

“It was physical, yeah, it was quite physical,” said Fenton.

“I think this (his black eye) was from the throw-in, I remember feeling it at the throw-in. I’m not sure who did it but it was physical. I had a man in my face for most of the game talking the talk but you have to take that. It’s a compliment I suppose from Tyrone that Mickey Harte would put a player looking after you and man-marking you. I’m well used to it by this stage and, as I said, it’s just unbelievable to come out through it. It’s so special.”

Competition for places in this Dublin squad is so fierce that Bernard Brogan couldn’t earn a place in the 26 for yesterday - if he had been born in Dungannon instead of Dublin, he might even have started the game.

At 34, he will hope to win his place back next year as the Dubs go for a record-breaking five in-a-row.

“It’s exciting,” said Fenton.

“My dad is a Kerry man and he reminds me of the heartbreak and the Offaly last minute goal. But it (five in-a-row) hasn’t been talked about the same as this four in-a-row wasn’t talked about at the end of last year. We’re just enjoying these moments and I’m sure Jim will have a plan ready to go for us at the end of December or the start of January, whenever it is.

“We’ll enjoy this and come back every bit as strong next year.”

He means it. Be afraid, be very afraid…

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