Brian Fenton says Dublin are ready to reset
By John Harrington
Dublin midfielder, Brian Fenton says defeat to Mayo in this year's All-Ireland semi-final has eased the pressure on him as an individual and the team as a collective, even if it was really tough to take at the time.
The Raheny club-man had famously never lost a championship match until this year, and he’s happy that neither that statistic nor Dublin’s long unbeaten run will be part of the narrative around the team anymore.
“In many ways it wasn't this big shock for me, to be honest, or this big momentous event,” said Fenton at the launch today of the new Avonmore Pro-Oats product. “I’m well used to losing in many ways in different sports growing up. It was just, I suppose, that whole narrative around me and this Dublin team at the end of that run of games.
“That was new, certainly, and I suppose the immediate aftermath in that dressing-room was certainly new as well, that was a new experience. It's disappointing obviously when you're a sportsperson and you're a competitor.
“Disappointing, but, I think, again, in many ways, the monkey is off your back or the pressure baloon is burst, you know that sort of way?
“It's not a relief, I don't want to say it's a relief, but that's it done now and I think for me and for the team, certainly, it's just a complete reset button and we'll go at it again. Right, who's in the group, who's the 30 lads trying to take it on next year?
“Thankfully that sort of narrative around me never having lost a championship game will be gone now and I won't be asked about it. It's just sort of, here we go again, trying to get to the top again.”
This is the first time Fenton has experienced an off-season without an All-Ireland medal in his back-pocket, and he admits he’s still processing Dublin’s failure to win a seventh All-Ireland title in a row.
“In terms of the loss, yeah, it's different, very different,” he said. “Certainly a lot more introspection, if that's the right word to say. I've done a lot more thinking on my own game and where we're at, and I think that's the case across the group, just chatting to lads individually. There's been a lot more time to think that you're not at the peak of mountain anymore.
“You're sort of thinking about how can we get back up there. That's what it's been like. But that will happen I think as we come together again as a group and maybe review it. We haven't since, I haven't since. I haven't watched it back, the Mayo game. That will happen in due course when we're getting ready to go again.
“As a group I think that energy gathers as time goes on and we come closer to Christmas time we sort of know that come January there'll be fitness tests and strength tests and lads start to communicate a little bit around this time of year, the WhatsApps start to fire up and that sort of energy comes back into place.
“As that grows and as more lads start mentioning it, you're sort of saying, right, feck it, here we go, back on the wagon again.”
One of the talking points of Dublin’s 2021 campaign was Stephen Cluxton’s decision not to make himself available for selection.
Fenton doesn’t think that ‘will he, won’t he’ debate destabilised the team, and is none the wiser either whether Cluxton will make a dramatic comeback in 2022.
"At the time, when we were aware that he wasn't coming back, I thought it would be a distraction and this big thing. And that was there in the media for sure, but, inside the group, I don't think it was.
"We're all mature enough and long enough on the road to know that players come in and out. Dermo (Connolly) has come in and out, Jack (McCaffrey), Paul Mannion. They've come in and out in many ways and as the year went on, it certainly wasn't a distraction for us, as much as I certainly thought it would be at the start.
"I don't know, wouldn't it be great to have him back but the fella is almost 40 now. I'm slagging him saying he'll be playing Masters next year.
"I reached out to him for pints and stuff and he's still there, still alive and still a friend but I don't know is the truth.
"We chat all the time, well no more so than any mates. I'm sure I'll see him at a Damien Dempsey gig over Christmas, please God if they go ahead.
"But, to be fair, looking back, would you fault Evan Comerford? I don't know if you would and he is the most professional athlete you'll come across. As good as the keepers were in the All-Ireland series, I'd say Evan Comerford will have numerous All-Stars going forward. Certainly happy to be out the field when he's kicking it out.