For most people, Sunday’s All Ireland Semi Final clash between Dublin and Kerry was one for the ages and will be remembered for years to come.
For one member of the Dublin camp however, it might be one they’d choose to forget.
But former Dublin net minding legend John O’Leary fully believes that current goalkeeper and captain Stephen Cluxton will prove to everyone on September 18th that this past Sunday was simply a blip.
Two costly errors lead to two goals for the kingdom and Dublin went from cruising to 0-05 down as the teams went into the break.
Thankfully for Dublin it was indeed a game of two halves and following a calm and concentrated team talk at half time, given by the captain himself, the Dubs showed their muscle and proved again why they are indeed worthy reigning Champions. But some will be left wondering if there is a kink in the chain.
John O’Leary lifted Sam Maguire high above his head in 1995, and has seen and done it all as a goal keeper. He firmly believes that Stephen Cluxton has nothing to prove and if necessary, will show his ability as one of the best in the game when it’s needed the most.
“Dublin won 18 out of 21 kickouts” O’Leary told RTÉ Sport. “Unfortunately on the other three Kerry got two goals out of it. That’s the risk when you’re taking short kickouts.”
“The forward is trying to mark two players or make you go to one or the other, then try and anticipate where you’re going and unfortunately (Geaney) anticipated which one of the two players it was going to. It was unfortunate from Stephen’s point of view. I wouldn’t get hung up on it.”
Anyone around the Hill 16 end of the field at half time on Sunday would have witnessed Cluxton methodically tidy his goal area and very slowly walk toward the tunnel, long after both teams had left the pitch. Contemplation? Possibly. Composing himself for his half time words, which definitely were not what he was probably expecting to deliver? Also Possible.
“By all accounts his half-time speech galvanised the team and they came out fighting again.”
“To do that on the back of the two goals that came off his mistakes shows he had the strength of character to put it behind him. I’ve no doubt he’ll come out and have an outstanding game the next day.”
He’s captain for a reason”.
The 16 year gap between O’Leary lifting Sam, and Cluxton lifting Sam was a hard time for Dublin fans, but since 2011, Dublin have soared to Championship heights on a further two occasion. And in a few weeks time, Dublin fans could be looking at this current batch of players stepping into the realms of being one of the greatest teams in Championship history.
“The class of ’95 had played two finals before that and a semi-final and lost them all”, John explained, “so we were there or thereabouts knocking on the door; that’s why we made the breakthrough.”
But comparing his side with the current panel “They’ve an edge in terms of the All-Irelands they’ve won.”
“They’ve made the breakthrough much earlier in terms of their five-year span. They’re very consistent.”
“They’re just a phenomenal team. Sunday showed that they have a cohesiveness and a desire and resilience which no team will win an All-Ireland without.”