Denis flying the flag for the Dubs


Denis flying the flag for the Dubs

Mayo and Dublin flags have been popping up around Donegal in the last few weeks with the green and red of Mayo the more dominant of the two.

But for one Letterkenny flagpole there can be only one flag - the sky and navy blue of Dublin. It’s at the home of true blue Dub, Denis Doyle, in Carnamuggagh, Letterkenny.

Denis from Marino in the north side of Dublin, is steeped in the GAA tradition and football and hurling were his only sports during his schooldays.

He played both football and hurling in his youth and won a Leinster Junior A Hurling championship with Colaiste Mhuire CBS.

He also played minor football for St Bridgets, minor hurling with Naomh Colmcille and senior football with Clann Colaiste Naomh Mhuire in Dublin and St Brendan’s in Birmingham.

“My first All-Ireland final was in 1952,” Denis said.

“Cavan and Meath drew the first day and Cavan won the replay. I was only 12 at the time.

“Edwin Carolan scored a late equaliser for Cavan who went on to win the replay,” he added.

“I haven’t been to every final since but would say I have been to 60 finals in football and hurling.

“I worked in England for seven and half years when I started to work first and missed out in those years.”

On Sunday’s final, Denis admits to being wary of Mayo.

“Dublin are the favourites but I wouldn’t rule out a Mayo win. Mayo don’t fear Dublin,” he said.

“They have a good record against Dublin. They drew last year’s semi-final and beat Dublin in the semi-final in 2012.”

On the question of the best Dublin team ever, is it the current squad or the great Kevin Heffernan team of the 1970s?

“This current team is the best Dublin team I have seen in my 60 plus years watching Dublin football teams,” Denis insisted.

“The big debate is whether they are better than the great team of the 1970’s managed by Kevin Heffernan, that spawned Heffo’s Army.

“The ‘70s team was a very great team and it was a great time for Dublin supporters but in my opinion this current team are a better side.

“They have dominated Kerry, something the great team of the ‘70s couldn’t do. We enjoyed good days against Kerry in the ‘70s but we also had some bad days against Kerry too at that time.

“Diarmaid Connolly is a fabulous footballer, his point the last day against Kerry in the closing minutes off his left boot is proof of the great player he is.

“As well as a brilliant footballer he is a supreme athlete as was underlined after 70-plus minutes of energy-sapping football that he still had the power in his legs to kick that point the last day.

“Kevin McManamon is a marvellous forward and Dean Rock has really blossomed into a quality forward and deadly marksman.

“Kieran Kilkenny returned last year and he is a quality player and can play in the half forward line or the half back line.

“Bernard Brogan is not playing as well as other years, but he is still a very dangerous forward and only needs half a chance for a score.

“I’m just wary of Mayo. They are capable of pulling a performance out of the hat and if they do, it will be very close.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mayo won and being honest, I don’t think that too many people would begrudge them an All-Ireland at this stage, after all the disappointments.”

The Dublin and Kerry rivalry in football is one the great rivalries in all of Gaelic games. The City slickers versus the culchies.

They have served up some classics, among them, last month’s All-Ireland semi-final. Dublin came from five points down at half-time to win by two, 0-22 to 2-14.

But in all his years following the sky blues, of all the Dublin and Kerry meetings, Denis cites the 1977 All-Ireland semi-final clash as the standout game.

“It was a fantastic game of football and we were losing by two points going into the closing minutes,” he recalled.

“David Hickey and Bernard Brogan scored two late goals.”

Dublin came from 0-6 to 1-6 down at half-time and were still trailing by two points before Hickey and Brogan struck for a 3-12 to 1-13 win.

Bernard Brogan is the father of current Dublin star Bernard Brogan.

Dublin went on to beat Armagh well in the 1977 final.

Denis Doyle is living in Donegal for the past 41 years, since moving from London to Letterkenny to take the position of Tourist Officer for Donegal, with Bord Fáilte.

The All Ireland final weekend routine for Denis, especially on weekends when Dublin are on the bill, are well rehearsed by now.

And it will be the same this weekend. Denis will head to Dublin on Saturday afternoon, overnight on Saturday night in the capital and then be up brave and early on Sunday to ramble up to Croke Park in time for the minor game and to meet a few old friends and acquaintances for a chat and a bit of banter.

And it will be home again on Sunday night regardless how the game goes.

He’s hoping for another memorable final, and one to match that well recognised classic semi-final clash of 1977.

Pic: Denis Doyle and Anne Condon.