No clown­ing about as Dubs hit heights

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT -

WE DE­CIDED to treat the two chislers to a trip to the cir­cus on Fri­day evening.

It was their first time go­ing so they didn’t have any idea what to ex­pect and, to be hon­est, I didn’t either be­cause it’s so long since I’ve been at one my­self.

There’s a black and white photo of yours truly at the cir­cus when I was a mere whip­per-snap­per with a dodgy hair­cut in some dusty box in my par­ent’s house, and I hadn’t set foot in a big top since.

All I can re­mem­ber from that day back in the an­cient past were clowns with bright red noses and over­sized shoes and pony rides, but by jay­sus, from what I wit­nessed at the week­end, cir­cuses have come a hell of a long way since those in­no­cent days.

From a hand­ful of scram­blers whirring around man­i­cally in­side a metal globe, to trapeze artists with more of a pen­chant for swing­ing than an in­quis­i­tive and slightly bored cou­ple, to a laser light rou­tine that was more mind-bend­ing than a pile of hal­lu­cino­gens, it re­ally was a show that had it all.

When tun­ing into RTE’s cov­er­age of the All-Ire­land fi­nal re­play the fol­low­ing evening, I didn’t ex­pect to be treated to a spec­ta­cle that could match what I had wit­nessed the night be­fore, al­though I was im­me­di­ately daz­zled by Ciarán Whe­lan’s bright bur­gundy suit, which cer­tainly wouldn’t have looked out of place on one of the colour­ful cir­cus char­ac­ters.

My young fella was choos­ing his Com­mu­nion wear dur­ing the week, and thank­fully he went for some­thing closer to Pat Spil­lane and Stephen Rochford’s dark blue at­tire, rather than the for­mer Dublin mid­fielder’s gar­ish garb.

Any­way, enough about cloth­ing as there was far more than fash­ion at stake as the up un­til now elu­sive five-in-a-row was on the line as the Dubs had their de­signs on rewrit­ing the record books.

In fair­ness the first-half was a pul­sat­ing af­fair as ring mas­ter Jim Gavin’s men be­gan with the sort of shoot­ing ac­cu­racy William Tell could only dream of, avail­ing of ev­ery chance that came their way, but Kerry re­fused to buckle, and with David Clif­ford and Paul Geaney mo­tor­ing it looked pos­si­ble that they might some­how put the brakes on the drive for five.

Clif­ford re­ally is po­etry in mo­tion, a throw­back to Kerry greats be­fore him like Mau­rice Fitzger­ald and Colm Cooper, the sort of ed­geof-the-seat mar­quee for­ward that Dublin would love in their ranks.

His off-the-cuff swag­ger is a joy to be­hold, but the ac­cu­racy and ap­pli­ca­tion of the likes Ciarán Kilkenny, Con O’Cal­laghan and Paul Man­nion was also breath­tak­ing and they cer­tainly knew where the posts were on Satur­day as they had his­tory firmly in their sights.

Sadly, the thrill was quickly taken out of the con­test sec­onds af­ter the re-start, and from the mo­ment Eoin Mur­chan burst for­ward to lash home the only goal of the game, tak­ing more steps than a cir­cus pony in the process, it looked like Kerry’s goose was cooked.

That be­lief came to pass as Dublin had too much ex­pe­ri­ence and big game nous to let it slip and they com­fort­ably and, it goes with­out say­ing, de­servedly claimed the cov­eted five-in-a-row.

Un­for­tu­nately, the mo­men­tous achieve­ment has been met with ap­a­thy in some quar­ters, given the gen­eral state of Gaelic foot­ball at present.

Just like one swal­low doesn’t make a sum­mer, a de­cent fi­nal and a half hasn’t done enough to con­vince many that the big ball game is in rude health, just like a below par hurl­ing fi­nal didn’t cause devo­tees to lament the cur­rent state of that code.

The Dublin team are with­out doubt a phe­nom­e­nal bunch of ath­letes, but their fi­nan­cial and ge­o­graph­i­cal ad­van­tages can’t be com­pletely ig­nored and that’s why the ar­gu­ment that they’re the great­est team of all time is far from cut and dried, de­spite the im­pres­sive roll of honour.

Any­body who buries their head, os­trich-like, in the sand, be they a Dubs fan or oth­er­wise, and dis­misses that lin­ger­ing doubt as mere sour grapes needs to open their mind, take a step back and look at the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion.

Un­like my cir­cus snap-shot from decades ago, life is rarely black and white, and al­though no­body can ques­tion Dublin’s tal­ent and achieve­ments, it doesn’t mean we can’t query the ben­e­fits that helped them to get there.

Af­ter all, it is the in­tegrity of one of our na­tional games that’s at stake and no­body wants it to be buried in a mound of com­merce.

Would any­body be sur­prised if Dublin went on to win seven, eight or even nine in a row? Fans, even fol­low­ers of the Boys in Blue, voted with their feet this sum­mer and the sight of swards of empty seats at GAA head­quar­ters wasn’t palat­able for the pow­ers-that-be or view­ers. With full houses for the cli­max of the sea­son and com­pet­i­tive games to end the cam­paign, it’s all too easy to for­get the re­ally frus­trat­ing days that came be­fore.

On Fri­day night the cir­cus ended with one of the dar­ing per­form­ers do­ing an out­ra­geous and nerve-jan­gling som­er­sault on the out­side of a ‘wheel of death’ at a ridicu­lously danger­ous height as the au­di­ence looked on ner­vously through the gaps in their fin­gers.

Whether Dublin’s dom­i­na­tion will sig­nal the death knell for the foot­ball cham­pi­onship as we know it, or some­body else can some­how, against all odds, steal the lime­light, only time will tell.

The fa­mil­iar sight of Dublin cap­tain Stephen Clux­ton lift­ing the Sam Maguire Cup.

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