No clowning about as Dubs hit heights
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.