The Drive for Five is complete, the Search for Six is underway. Dublin are All-Ireland senior football champions for the fifth year in a row and few would begrudge the title of history makers now bestowed on manager Jim Gavin and his Celtic Cross crazy players.
On Saturday night they didn’t just beat Kerry by 1-18 to 0-15 with a dominant second-half display in the Croke Park replay, they also did what every team in the past has failed to do and lifted the Sam Maguire for a fifth summer in a row. That is some achievement.
For Gavin, now a six-time All-Ireland winner as a manager, the sense of history will come in the future. As the dust settled on a game effectively settled by Eoin Murchan right from the throw-in at the start of the second half, Gavin offered little emotional reaction to his team’s 29th All-Ireland title and their sixth in the last seven years.
Instead, he passed the reflective glory onto his players, his backroom team and all those who have answered Dublin’s call in the 135-year history of the GAA.
“They’re all unique,” Gavin told the media after his team had restricted Kerry to just five second-half points. “But when you beat a team like Kerry, that asked questions of guys over two days...I know how much it meant to the people who support the team. I’m just delighted for the players really when questions were asked of them both days they were able to come up with the answers.
“They showed their character over the last two games, whatever questions were asked of them, and I am so happy for them. I’m so happy for them, for the clubs of Dublin and the schools that developed these players because when we get them, we just add a bit of polish.”
It didn’t take long for the inevitable Drive for Five questions to surface in any of Gavin’s post-match interviews. His answer was more or less the same on every occasion.
“I haven’t really thought about it—that’s a fact. I’m not denying it and it’s great for the county, but our primary aim was to get a performance, and that’s not trying to dismiss it in any way,” stated Gavin as he hinted he will remain on when Dublin go for the six-in-a-row next year.
“When you go into a game you have to get your game plan right and your process right, that’s what delivers a performance like that and that’s what brings the result.
“I can’t say it does feel like the end. I have committed to next year so we’ll reflect in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m excited about the future. You’re just in a privileged position to work with players that are so dedicated to their sport.
“I have it easy. Club managers have it difficult sending texts around to training, inter-county managers don’t do that, people turn up and you have a full complement for every training. You’re excited to see this today and excited to look at the horizon but that’s probably for another day. I’m not going to get into it now. I’ll sit down with the county board as I always do to review it.
“I’ve a profession outside of this role that I’ve been asked to do for Dublin GAA and then obviously I’ve family commitments as well and it all goes into the mix, but now isn’t the time to be.”
Kerry did their best to make a game of it in the replay. Dublin raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead but Kerry were back within a point of them, 0-7 to 0-6, after 19 minutes.
Then the Kingdom fans were infuriated when Tadhg Morley was dragged down by Con O’Callaghan as he raced in on goals but referee Conor Lane somehow punished Mick Fitzsimons with a tick instead of sending O’Callaghan to the line.
Hopes of a Kerry win were still alive when the sides went in at 0-10 apiece at the interval but Dublin, with Diarmuid Connolly in for Jack McCaffrey, were the dominant force for most of the second period, a half they started with a hugely impressive goal from Murchan straight from the throw-in.
Peter Keane’s Kerry did get to within a point of the Dubs midway through the second 35 minutes but they were outscored by 0-7 to 0-2 in the final quarter and goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton was again charged with raising the Sam Maguire above his head as he won his seventh Celtic Cross medal.
Gavin admitted afterward that the decisive Murchan goal was straight off the training ground. He said, “It was a great set-move from the throw-in, really well executed collectively and a nice execution at the end of the move by Eoin. We’ve seen it before from him, so nobody was surprised.
“Surprised maybe we got that space in the opening play, but Eoin did really well. He came into himself today.”
The party started for the Dublin players straight after the game and only then did the Drive for Five become an issue according to defender Jack McCaffrey. He told reporters, “I’m not bulls****ing ye here, it just wasn’t an issue, the five-in-a-row stuff.
“We would have mentioned it at the start of the year a bit because we are all clever people, and we all live in the real world and it was out there. So, we addressed it, brought the elephant into the room and talked about it. ‘That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?’ Now, park it and game, game, game.”
Those games all went Dublin’s way. They are All-Ireland champions for a fifth year in a row now and history makers. Ciaran Kilkenny’s one-word reaction afterward summed it up perfectly. “Whoaa,” he said. And he meant it.