John Arnold: I dreamt of a Dublin ten in a row, or was it a premonition?

Last Saturday, I was in Dublin at the All-Ireland Football Final replay and while I kinda wanted Kerry to win, I had to admire Dublin in victory, so says John Arnold in his weekly column
John Arnold: I dreamt of a Dublin ten in a row, or was it a premonition?

SINGING THE BLUES: Dublin fans at the All-Ireland Football Final replay last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

THERE’S a story that’s oft been repeated concerning a famous Kerry footballer. I think it was Paddy Bawn Brosnan.

The Dingle fisherman and publican was one of the Kingdom’s finest ball players when so many top class exponents of Gaelic football wore the Green and Gold. Paddy won three All Irelands in the 1940s.

Well, the story goes that in the 1960s, he met a tourist in Dingle, a man all the way from the County Armagh and a footballer too. He was in awe of the Kerryman’s record and reputation.

The man asked what it was like to go up the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Sam Maguire Cup. He was told that you’d lift the cup with the left hand. “Why the left hand?” he enquired. “Yerra,” said the genial Kerryman. “You’d have to keep the right hand free to shake hands with the Queen.”

The Armagh man was shocked. “But we have no Queen in Ireland surely?” Paddy replied: “Not now, but by the time ye win the All Ireland there might be a Queen here!”

It might be only a story and, once Armagh made the historic breakthrough in1992 to win ‘Sam’, it wasn’t told anymore!

Last Saturday, I was in Dublin at the All-Ireland Football Final replay and while I kinda wanted Kerry to win, I had to admire Dublin in victory.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, when Kerry were winning All Irelands for fun, Micko Dwyer used say at the end of nearly every September that ‘Cork were the second best team in Ireland’. At the time we were fed up to the gills with his plamás but in hindsight, of course, he was right. Cork lived in Kerry’s shadow for so long. Those constant and regular defeats were hard to stomach in the pre back-door era.

The morning of the drawn final three weeks ago, I was in the Croke Park Hotel early. I was in great bilingual company with folk from Kilnamartyra, Ballyvourney and Millstreet. Bhimid ag caint mar gheall ar an cluiche. I had my tuppence worth and expressed the opinion that I’d like to see Kerry win — well, I was nearly killed dead on the spot.

I was told about the decades, nearly centuries of humiliation these ‘border’ people from the County Bounds had suffered at the hands, feet and tongues of victorious Kerry people!

They didn’t have any great gra for Dublin, but they were all in the ABK — Anyone But Kerry — movement.

Yes, there’s a strange kind of love/hate relationship ’tween Cork and Kerry people. I remember Sunday, September 21, 1980. After the All Ireland Football final that day, played in miserable conditions, I was having a meal in a small restaurant up near the top of O’Connell Street. Kerry had won the three in a row, defeating Roscommon by 1-9 to 1-6.

At the table near me a middle aged Kerryman was eating. “What’d you think of the game?” says he. Trying to be diplomatic, I replied: “Wisha, ‘twasn’t a great game and I feel a bit sorry for Dermot Early that he didn’t get a medal”

Well, me man left down his knife and fork and boy did he put me in my place. “Ye’re all the same, every wan of ye, every single Corkman, and ye’d begrudge Kerry everything we ever won. Ye’re just jealous cause ye’re useless at football and ye hate us...”

And that’s just an edited, shortened version of what he roared at me!

You wouldn’t mind but ’twas Kerry’s 26th title and Roscommon hadn’t won since 1944. I think that Dermot Early was the greatest footballer I ever saw that never won a winner’s Celtic Cross. I left that ‘ating house’ fairly lively, I can tell ye!

It was after half-nine last Saturday night when I left the nearly empty Hogan Stand, having witnessed history in the making. I missed Seamus Darby’s stunning goal in 1982 and in fairness that super Kerry four-in-a-row team came back to win another three-in-a-row.

And so the ‘Drive for Five’ is done and dusted.

Before I left the capital on Saturday, next year’s catchphrase was already doing the rounds — ‘Buzzin for the Half Dozen’ — and in reality, who’ll stop them? I think the only one that can prevent a six-in-a-row is Dublin themselves.

Maybe Jim Gavin will retire and maybe Bernard Brogan and a few more might leave the panel — but then they have a stream of replacements.

It wasn’t a classic game last Saturday but truly Dublin were awesome. Kerry were full of confidence after the draw but, when the chips were down in the second half, Dublin were like a blue tidal wave, irrepressible.

I slept well when I got home shortly after 1am, but football was still on my brain as I pondered the future and dreamt...


‘Seven Would Be Heaven’.

For this year’s seven-in a-row, someone took the ‘Dublin Saunter’ as sung by the great Noel Purcell and turned it into a new football anthem — I can remember well that summer of 1974 with the first ‘football song’ ‘The Dubs are back, the Dubs are back, let the Railway end go barmy’.

In the 2021 Leinster Final, Dublin won by 18 points despite introducing six subs in the first half. The recently reformed Westlife had a No 1 hit with Purcell’s favourite; I’ve been here and I’ve been there. I’ve sought the football’s end, And the Sam Maguire once more I’ve found. Now I know that, come what will, Whatever fate may send, Here my roots are deep in Croker ground.


‘Eight is Great’

This year, the GAA gave everyone else a chance. All the other 31 counties were given a 15 points start on Dublin, but it made no difference as they romped through Leinster with just one game against Kildare. The other Leinster Counties are now in the B and C Championships.

A special Congress was held in August and in order ‘to level the playing field’, a Motion was passed which prevented Dublin players in the All Ireland Final from touching the ball with their hands. Dublin still won against Derry by 13-0 to 1-11.


‘Nine is Fine’

Because only six Counties entered this year’s championship, it was decided to run off the whole thing over the August Bank Holiday weekend. With declining attendances, the GAA reduced the ticket prices to €10 and £5 for those in the sterling area as the Brexit talks continue.

For the final, the teams were reduced to seven a side and Dublin were in serious trouble in the first half. With Stephen Cluxton scoring three penalties late on, Dublin turned it around and won the nine-in-a-row. The Final Score was Dublin 4-17 Rest of Ireland 0-9.


‘The Yen For Ten’

Dublin were furious at claims being made by other Counties that meals were being delivered to the homes of individual County players. A spokesman for the Dublin County Board stated: “That’s a blatant lie, that practise was discontinued in 2017. Since then, no meals are home delivered. Each Dublin player has a cook and a chef, both of whom live-in during the Championship.”

Doubts are expressed early in the year about having a Football Championship at all. Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, Down and Meath all withdraw from the football altogether, deciding to concentrate on hurling.

There is no final, instead Dublin are presented with the Sam Maguire Cup after the Irish Grand National Race Meeting in Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. The Government and GAA honour the Dublin players with ten All Ireland medals with free travel passes (one way) to Dubai, Australia or Honolulu...

Well, the alarm rang at 7 o’clock on Sunday morning and ‘twas time for cows to be milked!

Good job I didn’t dream on any longer — those Dubs had enough won by then! Maybe ’twas Kerry’s full back Joe Keohane that was in the story about the Queen?

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