“Did you order the Code Red? Did you order the Code Red?”
Most of us that were around in the nineties remember the key courtroom scene of the blockbuster film A Few Good Men. In it, Tom Cruise’s rookie lawyer taunts the belligerent Naval base commander played with simmering menace by Jack Nicholson, trying to get him to break and thereby admit his guilt. The scowling older man is outraged by the plucky attorney’s impertinence.
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of very freedom that I provide,” he seethes through gritted teeth. As Cruise’s character turns up the pressure with his repeated question “Did you order the Code Red?” the commander eventually gives in, essentially to his own bloated ego. “You’re goddamn right I did” he blurts out to the stunned courthouse, unable to stop his restless arrogance from sending him to prison, and losing him the game.
As I watched Donegal and Dublin from the Cusack Stand two weeks ago, my mind was drawn back to that dramatic denouement. Perhaps it was Crazy Jack’s mention of “the blanket of very freedom” that did it, given that the prevailing negativity of some GAA football team’s tactics is often summed up by the ‘B word’.
More likely it was the realisation that the key factor in the success of such a gloomy unsporting approach is the inevitable moment when the ‘team that’s trying to play the football’ gives in to their own restless arrogance. Like the cantankerous commander, the traditionally entertaining side cannot help itself.
It only takes a split second for a young talented footballer with an adventurous spirit to momentarily forget the manager’s wise words and try that risky pass, burst through that extra tackle, attempt that impossible long-range point. The trap is set. The ball is intercepted. The vultures run in packs. The goal is scored. They retreat. They wait… Until the next ego malfunction.
But something has changed. It has taken a couple of years since the ‘Jim McGuinness managerial masterpiece’ saw Donegal entice a fidgety Dublin team into countless such slip-ups, but this time it happened only once. After the familiar string of side passes, back passes, feints and shimmies, Cian O’Sullivan had had enough. As he hit a tired ball right into the plumage of a hungry vulture, we all thought of 2014.
The ‘transition’ was on. The yellow jerseys swarmed forward and Ryan McHugh palmed the ball into an empty net. The gap was only three points. Surely this couldn’t happen again.
In the earlier game, Mayo had got away with being similarly suckered by Tyrone, but Dublin were not about to let things get so close. They were content to play it back and across the pitch until the end. This time they weren’t there to entertain. They were there to win.
A Donegal fan behind me steeled himself to shout “Boring Dubs”. I smiled a smile Jack would have been proud of.
Paul Hennessey, Pundit Arena