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17th Sep 2018

Lyndsey Davey masterclass has every kid in Croke Park paying good attention

Conan Doherty

There’s an old changing room rally cry that doesn’t ever seem to become worn in the GAA: leave everything on the field, they say.

Leave it all out there, every last bit of it. Don’t come back after the game with more still left to give. Don’t come back with anything else in you, with any regrets.

It’s very easy to pay lip service to that chest-beating when you’re going to sprint when you have to anyway and you’re going to chase and tackle and try to win the game. It’s easy to go along and nod your head too but the reality is that you’ll probably try to be economical with your energy, you’re going to get tired at some stage and you’ll maybe think your way through the game as well.

Very seldom does a player actually cross that divide over to the other side, where time and energy and everything else ceases to exist outside of the movement of a football. When they do it though, you see it. You can spot it a mile away. Even the untrained, unsporting eye would notice that these people, in those moments, have allowed one match to completely and utterly consume them to the point where they’re giving every last bit of their mental and physical output to simply and solely going after a piece of leather.

Lyndsey Davey might not know any other place.

It almost became a bit of a joke in Croke Park on Sunday.

As 50,141 came in through the turnstiles at headquarters, there were herds of kids in the Cusack Stand actually laughing every time Lyndsey Davey got on the ball. It was only funny because it was happening that much.

“Give it to number 12,” they’d shout in fits of excitement. “Number 12! Number 12!”

And, sure enough, Davey wasn’t long in granting their wishes as she’d once again pop up with the ball to cheers and giggles, she’d begin another attack, and she’d no sooner be on the end of the same one she started.

It was funny because it was unbelievable. Time and time again this number 12 would intervene and reconvene and, the more the kids looked out for her, the more she appeared.

When Dublin needed someone to dig them out of a hole, it was Lyndsey Davey there literally burrowing her way out. When they needed someone to break lines, it was Lyndsey Davey comfortably charging into traffic and manoeuvring her way through. When they needed the right play in the final third, it was Davey laying off an assist, winning the penalty or drawing frees all for Sinead Aherne to dispatch.

It was the Skerries native who burst in on goal and was dragged down by two Cork players to finally put some daylight between the teams.

It was Davey who injected the pace and directness into the move that led to Carla Rowe’s first goal although Noelle Healy can take most of the credit for that.

It was her again there to lay off to Rowe to strike the killer blow in the second period when Dublin’s one-point lead looked perilous.

And, of course, when Cork were huffing and puffing with just minutes remaining, when the Rebels were throwing everything they had left to hit the net and claw themselves back into the game, it was Lyndsey Davey there – who else – willing to put her body on the line to deny their last goal attempt of the game and cruelly quash their final assault.

In a battle of fine margins, in a match of redemption for the capital outfit who had lost the 2014, ’15 and ’16 finals to Cork, every single play was going to count. Fortunately for Dublin, Lyndsey Davey was keeping count.

Tackling, harrying, overlapping and creating, she was counting every second she was privileged enough to be spared on the biggest day of her footballing career. Every single chance she had to go for the ball, she took that chance without compromise and she didn’t think twice about going at the next one with even more aggression or venom.

A lot of wing forwards these days are just dogs. They’re smart enough to keep shape, they can get back and bulk up the defence and they can break lines in the middle third too but very few of them are as influential as someone like Davey is for the All-Ireland champions.

In fact, she’s the closest thing to Brian Dooher this country has seen since everyone started copping themselves on about using Red Diesel. She doesn’t just have a limitless engine, she’ll get you exactly to where you want to go too and you’ll get there cruising.

Every blade of grass of Jones Road she covered on Sunday as she immersed herself totally into chasing the O’Neill’s ball, as a defender, a link player and a creative force.

It wasn’t just lip service to Lyndsey Davey, that changing room rally cry. Everything she had was left on the field and, in the stands, they were falling over themselves at the endless sight of her charging back up the pitch with the ball nestled safely in her clutches.

“Give it to number 12,” they shouted.

Tonight, they’ll all be number 12, all practicing in their back yards and on training fields pretending that they too can be that number 12. Tonight, they’ll all be Lyndsey Davey.

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