There’s always a strange period of the unknown in that space between the Semi Finals and Final in the All Ireland Football Championship.
Long gone are the days of players being freely available to speak to whoever about whatever they want. These days, while the media, fans, and corporate entities try to seek out the players involved, they’re left wondering where they are.
This year probably weighs heavier than usual for both sides and that expectation must seem enormous.
For Dublin, a chance to become back to back All Ireland Champions, putting this bunch of Dublin players shoulder to shoulder with the greats of the game.
For Mayo, the opportunity to win their first title in 65 years. A monumental task, which if successful, will lift this Mayo panel to the status of martyrs in their own local folklore.
These two counties have had some torrid battles over the years and there’s no reason why Sunday week will be any different.
Fans of Dublin’s recent success will be used to this bubble that inflates around the senior panel before a final. Distractions are completely removed. Focus is firmly on September 18th. And following two stern tests against some of the best in the country, the Westerners await.
Nothing is a given, despite tote men across the land pointing favour toward the boys in blue. That’s happened too many times to mention with the outcome being the opposite.
For this period of abstinence, pundits won’t be listened to, papers won’t be read, and until such time as it’s necessary, the opposition will be ignored.
It’s quite hard to comprehend how this Dublin panel can filter out the spin when there’s so much being spoken about, so many well wishes, so many people wanting their piece. For some of them they’ve probably dreamed of this day since playing football at juvenile level.
But the ground work laid down by Pat Gilroy and continued by Jim Gavin is a process to be lauded and respected. A system that is reaping the benefits.
Last week in his Herald column, Alan Brogan recounted the build up to the 2011 Final against Kerry.
He recalled Pat Gilroy literally shutting everything down. The pre match press conference was called over 2 weeks before the game and after that all channels of communication were closed off.
“Every minute detail was looked at and Pat got us into the psychology of dealing with the event as much as the game.” Alan wrote.
“The ball was thrown in to our training matches at 3.30 because that was the time of the final.”
Beforehand, we’d line up and shake hands with ‘the President,’ and do the parade, just so nothing about what is a very unique day with lots of unique pageantry would throw us.”
To some that might seem entirely unnecessary and indeed over the top. Did it work?
There’s not one member of Dublin’s panel not prepared for this upcoming game, you can be guaranteed of that.
The pre game psychology that has been created over the last number of years, regardless of the methods, is continuing to work, continuing to draw success.
It’s a credit to the mental strength of anyone involved in Gaelic Games at the highest level. This is not a career for them, they’re not doing this for a living. They do this for the shear love of the game.
And in less than a few weeks time, whoever climbs the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Sam Maguire, it will be life defining.
Until then, we’ll be patient with the silence and let both teams do their talking on the pitch.