Despite the many highlights post-2012, there have been moments during this dominant Dublin era when supporters of the Boys in Blue have been mentally preparing to offer their congratulations to opposition supporters.
Last week, one dedicated Dubs supporter admitted that his group feared the worst on Hill 16 on September 1st as Kerry threatened to tear up the five-in-a-row script. He had that quiet moment of reflection where he readied himself to accept a gut-wrenching defeat graciously.
I vaguely remember watching (enduring) the 2017 All-Ireland Final in Lanzarote, surrounded by Mayo supporters who seemed to grow in confidence as the match went on. Lee Keegan had raised a green flag early in the second half as Mayo regained their half-time lead before both teams had players sent off (John Small and Donie Vaughan).
The moment I braced myself ahead of my anticipated ‘post-match gracious loser handshake’ arrived in second-half stoppage time as Cillian O’Connor prepared to strike a free at the Hill 16 end. Fortunately, from a Dublin point of view, he struck the upright and my heart could start beating again. The rest, as they say, is history as Dean Rock struck the winning point via GPS around four minutes later.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s replay and it was clear to all watching that The Kingdom had Dublin’s number the first day. While Jonny Cooper’s dismissal certainly didn’t help, Dublin were once again below-par for the main event. Whether that will be chalked down as an off day for the Dubs or as a result of irresistible Kerry pressure will be decided this Saturday.
One thing’s for sure, Jim Gavin’s post-match interview that day hinted that he was preparing to offer his own gracious loser’s handshake to Kerry manager Peter Keane. That’s not a position Gavin is too familiar with and it’s one that he’ll have done everything in his power to dodge once more come 7.30 pm this Saturday.