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Kerry Football legend Mikey Sheehy pictured at the launch of the GAA's new digital archive. 
Kerry Football legend Mikey Sheehy pictured at the launch of the GAA's new digital archive. 

Dublin five-in-a-row wouldn't stick in Sheehy's craw


By John Harrington

Kerry football legend, Mikey Sheehy, says it wouldn’t stick in his craw if the current Dublin team succeeded where his Kerry team of the ‘70s and ’80s failed by winning Five All-Irelands in a row.

The debate as to whether this Dublin team or the Kerry team of the ‘70s and ‘80s is the greatest of all time is still a live one, but it would probably be settled once and for all if Dublin broke new ground by winning the first ever five-in-a-row.

If that comes to pass, it won’t upset Sheehy unduly.

“No, it wouldn’t,” he said. “I genuinely mean that. Our losing five in a row, stuck in our craw and probably still does – well, it doesn’t so much now but it did for a long, long time.

“But I would have always made the point that we lost the Munster final in 83 to a last minute goal and then we came back and won three more, most of that team.

“I don’t think we’d have won that three in a row if we’d won the five in a row.

“I take my hat off to Dublin. They’ve been the best there’s been for the last number of years…I admire them.”

Sheehy believes that in team manager Jim Gavin Dublin have the steadiest hand they could possibly have on their tiller, but he knows from his own bitter experience that trying to win a fifth All-Ireland in a row creates a unique psychological pressure that’s difficult to cope with.

“Jim Gavin now is a different animal,” said Sheehy. “Let me tell you, what Jim Gavin does is on the money.

“I’m sure that he’ll have his own ways of dealing with it. It’s well down the road. It’s probably more difficult now because you guys will be writing about it, it will be on social media and a lot of Dublin supporters will be, ‘ah yeah, yeah we are going to do the five-in-a-row…’

“I am only talking about me again personally, but it does get into your psyche.

“I would probably said that before that game - I missed a penalty at a crucial point in the game - I would have said that day that I just didn't feel right myself.

“And I kind of felt it was tension thing that I felt drained.

“I felt after about 10 minutes in the game, ‘Jesus Christ, have I done any training for this game, do you know.’

“I was stuck, stuck to the floor, it was just a tension, drained.

“It was a mental thing. Different players. I think the players nowadays are totally different tuned to the way we were.”

The Kerry football team pictured before the 1982 All-Ireland Football Final when their own five-in-a-row aspirations were ended by Offaly. Mikey Sheehy is pictured on the far right of the front row. 
The Kerry football team pictured before the 1982 All-Ireland Football Final when their own five-in-a-row aspirations were ended by Offaly. Mikey Sheehy is pictured on the far right of the front row. 

The Drive for Five hype won’t really build up a head of steam until the All-Ireland series of the Championship, but if Sheehy’s experience is anything to go by, the Dublin players will have to avoid a lot of distractions before the summer is out.

“I can remember it clearly, but we didn’t have any control over stuff like that that was going on. The Thursday night before the game (All-Ireland Final) we were training in Killarney and kicking around really and not doing a lot.

“Coming out after training there were two guys, don’t ask me where they were from, and they were selling five in a row t-shirts.

“I never in my life saw Micko as animated and as cranky in his entire life. You could see it. I remember meeting a guy on the street, he was from down in south Kerry and this was the Friday before the game. He says ‘whatever ye do now, make sure yourself and all the Tralee fellas are down in Sneem on Monday night’. I looked at him and said ‘What? We have to go and win the game first.’

“It does get into your head and you try and stay away from it. I mean, in those days there was very no social media, just the paper.”

Sheehy believes Kerry’s victory over Dublin in Saturday’s League match in Austin Stack Park was an important one from a Kerry point of view.

But even though Dublin have now lost two of their three League matches this year, he doesn’t think that means there are any cracks appearing in their foundations.

“No, not yet,” said Sheehy. “Not even last Saturday night. They had a good few of their All-Ireland team and brought on Jack McCaffrey, Michael Darragh Macauley, Paul Flynn but you were missing the two – Ciaran Kilkenny and Stephen Cluxton.

“To me, their key men would be, number one, Cluxton, obviously. Ciaran Kilkenny. Brian Fenton. Jonny Cooper. And James McCarthy. There’s your spine. Every one of those guys, you’d put them up with the best players that ever played the game.

“What Jim Gavin did last year with Brian Howard…there was another guy [Darren] Gavin played last Saturday night, I’m sure there will be a few more before the end of the league. If Dublin are to do the five in a row, they’ve the right man at the helm.

“I think they’ll take ferocious beating. I think whoever will beat them will win the All-Ireland.”

Dublin's Brian Howard is chased by a posse of Kerry defenders in Saturday's thrilling Allianz Football League Division 1 clash at Austin Stack Park, Tralee. 
Dublin's Brian Howard is chased by a posse of Kerry defenders in Saturday's thrilling Allianz Football League Division 1 clash at Austin Stack Park, Tralee. 

Sheehy insists he’s not getting carried away just yet, but admits Kerry’s upward curve so far this year has been very encouraging and that there are good reasons to hope they can challenge hard themselves for the All-Ireland this year.

“Outside of Dublin, I think Kerry have the best forwards in the game,” he said.

“Even last year, I thought we had a very good forwards, just didn’t perform. I think they have serious, serious talent up front.

“The one thing I’d say about Peter Keane…Donie Buckley is involved too but a lot of people forget Tommy Griffin is there as well who was involved with Peter at minor. Tommy is a very good defensive coach as well.

“It would have been an area we were slated for, particularly in the league that we conceded 10 goals. But I noticed, particularly in the Tyrone game, very solid at the back. Played quite defensively.

“Whereas last Saturday night they took the handbrake off a bit more and drove on.

“Peter is obviously working on systems, looking down the road. Even though he wouldn’t admit it, he is looking down the road. Big time.”

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