The day began with the blitz, during which an assortment of 30 underage camogie, hurling and football teams from around the country competed. After the underage matches were finished, the Trinity and Dublin teams emerged from the dressing rooms to the delight of the 400 or so in attendance. The Dublin team was unrecognisable to most supporters, with Manager Jim Gavin opting to field a development squad, instead of the traditional Dublin senior team, ahead of their crunch clash with Kerry this Saturday. The Trinity team was also unusual as it was made up of past alumni, as well as senior players from the Ballymun Kickhams GAA club. All of the underage teams lined up behind the two teams and were led around the new pitch by a bagpiper playing “The Minstrel Boy”. They then congregated in front of the clubhouse and sang “Amhrán na bhFiann”.
Based on the first few minutes of the game, it looked like Dublin would dominate. They nearly got in for two goals off the bat, but both efforts were tipped away by goalkeeper Michael Sheils, who had an incredible game. It took 10 minutes for Dublin to get their first score. They tipped three points over without response from Trinity, before the home side found their groove.
The full forward line for Trinity came alive, with corner forwards Dillon Keating and Paul McFadden wreaking havoc throughout the game, finding space behind the Dublin blanket defence. McFadden in particular put in a strong performance, scoring the majority of Trinity’s points in the first half.
Trinity took control of the game for the rest of the half, defending aggressively and making Dublin look ordinary. After the half time whistle was blown, the pitch was flooded again with children and the blitz was resumed. Once the games had finished, they were rushed off the pitch and the referee restarted the game.
Trinity started well in the second half, going two points up, both coming from McFadden. However, Trinity’s momentum was halted when Ross Hazley outmuscled two Trinity defenders and slammed the ball past Sheils.
A few minutes later, Dublin’s Danny Byrne fell awkwardly, dislocating his elbow. This injury led to a five-minute stoppage. The fact that Byrne was evidently in severe pain mixed with the break in play seemed to sap the enthusiasm from both teams.
Dublin recovered quicker, and this was what edged them ahead. Gerry Seaver stepped up and slipped over a point to end the scoring drought. This was followed two minutes later by a goal. Dublin’s full forward Gavin Ivory was tripped while running through on goal and awarded a penalty, which he duly slotted into the back of the Trinity net.
Trinity’s heads dropped after this, and the Dublin forward line rampaged for the rest of the game. They finished things off with a goal from corner back Rutherson Real after a slick interchange of hand passes between the forwards put him through one on one with the keeper.
What really separated the teams was Dublin’s strength and conditioning and their superior unity – understandable since this was the first time most of the Trinity players had played together. It’s clear why Gavin is regarded as the top manager in Ireland. The team was well drilled, and their movement up front was brilliant. Gavin’s footballing philosophy has been instilled even in the Dublin development squad teams. An ability to get men behind the ball quickly when defending and then to break at pace when the attacking team has been dispossessed mixed with patience up front was devastating.
The match ended with most of the children who had played in the blitz long gone, likely disappointed at the lack of big name players lining out for Dublin. This was understandable given their crunch match this Saturday against Kerry in the league. Speaking to The University Times about Dublin’s upcoming league matches, Gavin said: “It’s another game for us in the league and they’re such competitive games … we’re looking forward to it and we’ll be building for three months now to Championship.” Overall, the day proved to be a very enjoyable one, and the excitement for the future of Trinity GAA was palpable.