Football

Colm Cavanagh: A fitting end to an absorbing Championship, now it's the chance for the club players to shine

Dublin celebrate regaining the Sam Maguire Cup by defeating holders Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic Philip Walsh
Dublin celebrate regaining the Sam Maguire Cup by defeating holders Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic Philip Walsh Dublin celebrate regaining the Sam Maguire Cup by defeating holders Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic Philip Walsh

And so, another season of the football Championship draws to a close and we have a new name on the Sam Maguire for 2023.

Since the semi-final draw was announced, it was the final pairing that the whole of the media was waiting for, and it didn’t disappoint.

I had fancied Dublin coming into the game, I felt that they had more diversity across both the pitch and the bench.

They had plenty of reserve on the bench to spring into games when needed, but importantly it was players coming into tight games with years of experience under their belt. Players settled into a system and were comfortable with any role they were selected to play.

As outstanding as Kerry’s skillset is, I feel they are somewhat reliant on David Clifford to get them through any tough spells of a game. He isn’t a bad option to have to look to mind you, but he can’t shoulder it all. He was very well marked in the final and it showed.

Three points in an All-Ireland final isn’t a bad tally for anyone, but we have come to expect a score almost every time Clifford touches the ball (which is outrageous in itself) and the uncharacteristic misses from Kerry told a tale in the end.

Dublin are a changed team from the six-in-a-row squad but they have retained a lot of experience from those years and having Cluxton back between the posts gave them an extra boost of confidence.

Read more:

  • Colm Cavanagh: I found out the hard way the personal toll of chasing success at all costs
  • Kevin Madden: Dublin's big names got them over the line
  • Steven McDonnell: Dubs got what they deserved as masterstrokes paved way

The backbone of the team has been there and done that before, but importantly, have also been through games that weren’t going their way when they have had to dig in to get through.

Some of those Dublin players now have nine All-Ireland medals to their names, which is an incredible feat.

You would think that those men would become complacent or that the joy of winning would be lesser each time, not by the celebrations we saw on the pitch afterwards.

It would almost seem that after two years out of the final, taking the chance to regroup and refocus, this win meant every bit as much as any of the previous ones, if not more.

Maybe those players appreciate it more, knowing that it doesn’t just happen overnight and it's not just expected from Dublin anymore, there is a serious amount of hard work and effort to get back to the top and they recognised that.

They are also that few years older now and have moved on in their personal (and professional) lives.

Recognising the commitment that it takes to be at the top level of any sport while still progressing outside the sport is an achievement in itself.

Fair play to them, they deserve to celebrate as if it was the first time they had won, never mind the eighth or ninth.

Dublin's Brian Fenton and Kerry's David Clifford shake hands at the end of a pulsating All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Dublin's Brian Fenton and Kerry's David Clifford shake hands at the end of a pulsating All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh Dublin's Brian Fenton and Kerry's David Clifford shake hands at the end of a pulsating All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh

A word of respect to the Clifford brothers on what was bound to be a day of heightened emotions.

Seeing them together at full time is a reminder to all of us that they are just normal guys going through a completely surreal experience, ultimate sportsmen who deserve a lot of recognition and praise for giving absolutely everything to their team while dealing with such personal issues. Heroes.

Even though this isn’t the first condensed season, it still seems very early to be complete by the end of July.

Our focus switches now to the club scene again and club championships will be getting underway over the next number of weeks throughout the country.

It is every players chance now to emulate their county heroes and create new memories for our clubmates, friends and family, an important time in the sporting calendar and one we always look forward to fondly.

After two years this also signals the end of the season for me. This is the last opinion piece from me for now.

Although this is primarily a sports column, there are actual journalists whose job it is to write about the drama both on and off the field of play, so I have concentrated on the behind the scenes, where my interests lie.

If watching sports documentaries or reading sporting books, I always prefer to learn about the processes behind the success, the nutrition, the training, the psychology and the gameplan.

I’m passionate about looking after both my physical and mental health and think it is very important that we pass that passion onto the sportspeople of tomorrow with the correct guidance.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching into these areas and sharing my opinions with you and I really appreciate you reading along for all this time.

Go raibh míle maith agat agus Slán go fóill.