During my chat with Dublin legend, Vinnie Murphy, last week one particular comment stood out.
Murphy was reminiscing on 1995 and how Dublin had barely fallen over the line following five years of heartache. According to Murphy, it was a weaker Dublin side compared to the 1992 & 1994 All-Ireland finals, however, the reason they won that year (apart from Jayo’s arrival) was down to the likes of Jim Gavin who wasn’t afraid of the dirty work and didn’t crave the limelight.
“I think ’95 was more that fellas were prepared to put their shoulders to the wheel we got a few more engines, the likes of Jim Gavin was the biggest engine you could get if you asked him to do a job he would go and do it to the maximum of his ability were other fellas that had bigger egos or bigger personalities wouldn’t have liked to do the hard work or the unseen work.” Murphy told Pundit Arena.
It’s unfair to speculate who exactly Murphy is talking about in terms of egos and bigger personalities not wanting to do the hard work but it does give us food for thought.
That Dublin side appeared in three All-Ireland finals in four years with one semi-final defeat sandwiched in between. Does nobody find it strange that they lost to a different northern county in each season? At a time when Ulster wasn’t exactly a stronghold?
While the narrative up north is that Down’s win in 1991 provided the neighbouring counties with the belief that they do could do it too I believe a large part of it may have been down to your Derrys and Donegals being confident that they could out-work a Dublin side more focused on looking good when winning.
Dublin were more concerned with the glitz and glamour that comes with the hype of representing a metropolitan city whereas the ‘Hills’ and the ‘Bogside’ are hardly a breeding ground for glamour.
After falling over the line in 1995, a lull occurred in the late nineties but they returned with aplomb in 2002 under Tommy Lyons and since then they’ve dominated the footballing landscape of Leinster. However, it still took them nine years to win an All-Ireland and over a decade to truly become dominant. But why?
How that Dublin team comprising of Whelan, Christie, Brogan, Farrell and Sherlock never made an All-Ireland final beggars belief.
How does a team consistently fail in big games when they have 80,000 fans cheering them on? It’s not that they weren’t good enough, they had their eye off the ball. It’s common knowledge that Tommy Lyons played the media game during his tenure in charge and while he achieved relative success with Dublin there’s no denying that period saw a celebrity kind of culture filter through. In fairness, it was a culture that probably came with the times being Celtic Tiger Ireland and all that.
Fast forward to the Jim Gavin era and Dublin are a force of nature going for five All-Ireland in a row. In comparison to the Lyons era, Gavin couldn’t be more boring when it comes to the media game even if he tried (I mean that respectfully).
When Vinnie Murphy spoke of Jim Gavin’s play and how that effectively helped Dublin achieve their goals in 1995 it became pretty clear that Gavin transferred those qualities into his management and passed it down to his players.
How many times did we see Paul Mannion track back into the depths of his own backline last year and turn over the ball? This is a lad who’s in the form of his life right now yet isn’t afraid to get back and do the dirty work.
Does Brian Fenton come across as having an ego or a big personality? He may well have but we don’t see it, all we see is a dominant footballer.
This current Dublin side are machine-like. They don’t celebrate goals, they rarely get involved in unsavoury incidents, heck when they’re put up for media events they are the masters of saying a lot without saying anything at all, as I said, machine-like. However, on the rare occasions we do get to see the human side to this Dublin team (normally the week or two following an All-Ireland final) they do come across as genuine men.
The reason Dublin got over the line in 1995 is the same reason they are consistently getting over the line today. Just like Jim Gavin the player who wasn’t afraid to do the unseen work, he’s built a team of players who leave their egos at the door and do their fair share of the unseen work in order to achieve the common goal.