GAA Football

Loss of form in training cost Philly McMahon starting spot for All-Ireland final

Philly McMahon jumps to get a fist to the ball in an aerial duel with Kerry's Tommy Walsh in this year's All-Ireland replay. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Andy Watters

A DIP in form at training after Dublin had beaten Roscommon in the Super8s cost Philly McMahon his starting spot for the All-Ireland semi-final and the final against Kerry.

Now the Ballymun Kickhams defender is determined to win back his sky blue jersey next season.

Two-time Allstar McMahon did play an important role as a substitute in the final replay with the Kingdom and the final whistle confirmed his seventh All-Ireland medal as the Dubs completed an historic five in-a-row.

After the final whistle, the experienced defender with Belfast roots was among the names linked with possible retirement. However, he doesn’t have any intention of hanging up his boots.

“That’s the mad thing about GAA, the public nearly get rid of you before you want to go yourself,” said McMahon.

“There’s a lot of variables that will result in you retiring. Game-time. Does the manager see you as part of their team? Do you add anything or are you just holding up a jersey? Have you done enough or is it time to pass it on to the next young person coming through because that’s all we’re doing, we’re only minding the jersey?

“That’s hard to accept because you’ve given so much to it and you love it so much and you love the whole environment but it’s inevitable, that’s the way it goes. Denis Bastick said it really well: ‘Time doesn’t wait for you’.

Philly McMahon battles with Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Picture Colm O'Reilly

“Considering that for the two years before it I was in a bad place (his father was battling cancer during that time) but I was playing every game, this year for me was: ‘Just go for it’. But I broke my hand in pre-season so I didn’t play any of the League and I struggled to get going all season.

“When lads were playing football I was running up and down the sideline because I couldn’t touch the ball with my hand. I got 20 minutes against Cavan in the last League game and then the Championship started and I started to play well and got the jersey back.

“Unfortunately I underperformed after the Roscommon game and that’s the way it is with our group – you underperform and the next person comes in and takes your jersey. That’s what happened.

“That was unfortunate because I felt really good this year and I was looking forward to playing Mayo and then Kerry in the final and it never happened. That’s what happens at the elite level, you can’t be off your game for a second.

“So if I’d trained well the week after the Roscommon game and I’d started the Mayo game, played well in that, started the Kerry game and played well in that then you wouldn’t be getting asked: ‘Would you be thinking of retirement?’

“But that’s all it takes. Next year is a new year, I’ll have to get myself in shape pre-season and that will give me an indication of how serious I am going into the season.”

After being held to a draw in a titanic struggle first time out, Eoin Murchan’s goal seconds after half-time paved the way for Jim Gavin’s men to set a new benchmark for consecutive Sam Maguire triumphs. But McMahon says the Dubs was never motivated by the ‘drive for five’.

Read more: Dublin GAA's Philly McMahon recalls the night his father was wounded by British Army

“Every individual in this group has made history in their own way,” he said.

“My history is my da came down from the North after getting shot, he was in the Troubles. Winning one All-Ireland medal was history for me and all the other stuff is just add-ons.

“I don’t want to play it down because it’s incredible what the group has done, it’s a once in a life-time achievement.”

As for who can break Dublin’s stranglehold on the Sam Maguire, McMahon agrees that Kerry are currently the best of the rest.

“You don’t know,” he said.

“You could say that because Kerry are up-and-coming definitely. They’re young. But who knows?

“It’ll depend on the League campaign and a couple of teams will give you an indication of whether they are serious contenders. Tyrone were finalists last year and there are three or four counties there who could be knocking at the door.”

Read more: Dublin GAA's Philly McMahon recalls the night his father was wounded by British Army

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