|Dublin boss Jim Gavin.|
Some months ago a trio of Dublin players attended a supporters night at the hotel that their county board has aligned themselves with in recent times, for a fee of course.
The Gibson Hotel is a fine establishment, situated in the heart of the city’s Docklands and next door to the O2 Arena that now hosts the country’s top concerts.
Fleetwood Mac are there on Friday night by the way and I don’t have a ticket, not that I personally want one. I prefer to remember Stevie Nicks as she was in the prime of my youth, not as she is now as we both head closer to the pension plan than either of us want to admit.
My youngest son Ciaran, 16 and guitar mad, is desperate to see the dinosaurs of trans-Atlantic rock in live action and I’m looking everywhere for a ticket. I’m not the only one but Fleetwood Mac aren’t the hottest gig in town this week, not by a long shot.
Dublin, part sponsored by the Gibson Hotel where so many Nicks fans will gather on Friday night, will play Mayo in the All-Ireland football final at Croke Park this coming Sunday.
It’s a big game, the biggest on the football calendar and one that has so much riding on it, not least for the two counties involved.
After a summer dominated by hurling drama, and with more to come in the replay between Cork and Clare on Saturday the 28th, it is vital that Gaelic football delivers a blockbuster this weekend.
We got close to it in the semifinal when Dublin and Kerry played out a cracker at Croker.
That was good, but then came the All-Ireland hurling final drama between the Munster rivals when Clare dominated for most of the game, conceded the lead for the first time in the final minutes, then grabbed an extra-time equalizer to deny Cork.
Already the neutrals of the GAA world are counting down to the rematch when the Banner and the Rebels will go at it again, hell for leather we can assume.
Those who prefer their football to their hurling believe this All-Ireland final can match anything hurling has been able to offer this summer, and they may well have a point.
Dublin have been the great entertainers all year long, ever since Jim Gavin took the reins from 2011 All-Ireland winner Pat Gilroy.
Gavin is a great organizer, an astute tactician and a born winner. He trained as a pilot with the Irish Aer Corps, our Air Force. He knows when to take a risk and when to take a calm and controlled approach to the task in hand.
Thankfully for those of us who still enjoy Gaelic football, despite all the northern inspired cynicism of some teams, Gavin hasn’t been afraid to take a risk all summer.
His approach to Gaelic football and championship action is similar to that adopted by Kevin Keegan as manager of Newcastle United when he almost gave Alex Ferguson a run for his money in the Premier League title race.
Keegan’s attitude at Newcastle was simple -- as long as his team scored more goals than the opposition they’d be okay. It might sound incredibly simple, stupid almost, but it worked.
And it ensured that things never got boring whenever Newcastle United played football, at the Mecca that is St. James’s Park or on the road.
They didn’t win the league of course, but they did win friends and admirers. There were times when it looked like that was more important than the title itself to Keegan.
Gavin probably won’t be quite as relaxed in his desire to win on Sunday, but he has already made it clear to anyone who will listen in the build-up to the game that Dublin will not employ a blanket defense against the free scoring Mayo forwards. It’s not in his nature and he won’t allow his players to do it.
The good news for us neutrals is that Mayo won’t play any other way either. They’ve already scored 14 goals in the championship this season, to Dublin’s 11, and the word on the street in Castlebar is that Cillian O’Connor will be risked on Sunday, despite his shoulder injury.
O’Connor is another man who knows only one way to play football. He has an eye for goal and a foot to match, and his ability to change games will be needed if Mayo can coax him through the 70 minutes come Sunday.
In ways O’Connor is the Bernard Brogan of Mayo football and that’s a compliment, one the Mayo man will acknowledge.
When these sides met in the league last March Brogan destroyed Mayo almost on his own and scored 1-10 to boot.
He finally came to life in the championship when Kerry were denied in the semifinal, and he has a goal of his own to edge closer to on Sunday as those lucky enough to have been invited to that supporter’s night some months ago heard for themselves.
Growing up the son of All-Ireland winner and Dublin legend Bernard Brogan, it was obvious from a young age that Bernard Junior was going to be a footballer.
As he said himself that night in the Gibson, he wasn’t too old when he realized his dad was more than just a sociable footballer.
“I knew from an early age he was an All-Ireland winner and the pressure was on to follow him. He had a few medals in the bag and I was always pushing to get the first one,” Junior said.
That Celtic Cross duly arrived for Brogan and brother Alan two years ago, but they still have some way to go to match Bernard’s collection of three winners medals.
Brogan Junior’s hunger will drive him on Sunday and Gavin’s license to thrill will drive Dublin forward as it has done all summer.
Considering the Mayo players have the same urgency to attack about them -- and a hunger that stretches away back to 1951 and their last date with Sam Maguire -- it promises to be a very special final.
Come Sunday evening I happen to believe young Bernard will be bringing another All-Ireland medal into the Brogan household.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)
O'Neill likely to replace Trap
FAI chief John Delaney’s been here before. He was here when Jack Charlton left after Anfield, here when Mick McCarthy walked the plank in 2002.
He was a man of real power when Brian Kerr was appointed manager, the man of absolute power when he turned to Steve Staunton after “world class” manager Martin O’Neill declined his advances in 2006.
A couple of years later and John masterminded the move to land the acclaimed Giovanni Trapattoni as Ireland’s new boss.
A week ago, John was at the center of the action again, the only real action at the end of a two game cycle that saw our national team lose to Sweden and then Austria in the space of five days.
The World Cup dream died its inevitable death late on a Tuesday night in Vienna, and by 9:30 a.m. the next morning, Delaney had already informed Trapattoni that the end was nigh.
It was the right thing to do, and the swiftness of the action was entirely justifiable and appropriate. For once the FAI got it right with their timing and their actions in regard to the Irish team manager.
Now comes the hard work. Their choice of successor is vital for a game that needs a real lift, a game where everything works down from the national team.
The good money -- and lots of it -- is already on Martin O’Neill, described as a shoo-in by my old mate Mick McCarthy the other day.
O’Neill knows Ireland and the Irish. He knows our football and he knows our footballers from his time in club management in England.
His motivational skills are legendary, his leadership qualities are exemplary and he is available to start work next week if needed -- and without the need for compensation to his club employers.
There are others still in the frame. Alex Ferguson is also unemployed at the moment, while his former captain Roy Keane would love a crack at the job.
But there’s nothing to suggest Martin O’Neill’s appointment is anything other than a done deal.
Comments from Delaney on Monday only helped to confirm it when he said of O’Neill, “I have no problem saying Martin O’Neill has been a terrific manager in his career, a terrific man and I admire him very, very much.
“But I wouldn’t comment on Martin O’Neill or any other person as to whether he’d be the next Ireland manager as I think that would be unfair.
“He is a terrific manager who has had a great career in football both as a player and manager. But there is a lot of interest. Many credible candidates have already applied.”
There may indeed be many other credible candidates, but I suspect they are wasting their time and you would be wasting your money backing anyone other than Martin O’Neill to be the next manager of Ireland.
After the final traumas of the Trapattoni era, his appointment can’t come quick enough for some of us.
HERO OF THE WEEK
TONY Ward, not the famous old rugby player, coached Galway to not one but two All-Ireland camogie titles on Sunday when they won the senior and intermediate crowns at Croke Park. Quite a feat that for the Galway girls and their coach.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
LATE on Tuesday night of last week Giovanni Trapattoni was still claiming he deserved another two years in the Ireland job .... even after Austria had ended our World Cup hopes with their 1-0 win in Vienna. Thankfully he's gone now!