September 18, 1992
Dublin's Gerry Hargan
The old hand and cornerstone of the rock solid Dublin defence
Episode three of last year's footballing soap opera was barely 15 minutes old. Meath were playing with a stiffening breeze as they attacked the Hill 16 end. Brian Stafford had shaken off the cobwebs that had blighted his performance to date. Hill 16 fell silent as the Royal County descended on a porous Dublin defence.
In the dugout Paddy Cullen couldn't hide his worry - the situation, though not yet desperate, demanded an immediate solution. There was only one solution. Gerry Hargan supplied it. Ciaran Walsh was called ashore and the Ballymun Kickhams hero entered the fray entrusted with the task of shoring up the Dublin defence in the face of relentless Meath pressure.
Hargan did his job as both Meath and Dublin traded counter punch for counter punch like two price fighters. Both teams lived to fight another day. Over 60,000 spectators were enthralled by the ebb and flow nature of the proceedings.
In the final conflict of July 7th, the name of Gerry Hargan was this time pencilled in from the start. He again locked horns with the pride of Kilmainhamwood, Brian Stafford. At the end of 70 minutes honours were even but for Hargan el al personal performances didn't matter a damn, to Meath went the spoils of a famous victory and victory is what it is all about.
For Hargan the pain of the last gasp defeat was hard to take. The Golden Fleece had not so much been denied but had been cruelly pilfered from Dublin's grasp. The knockers were on hand to apportion blame.
Some questioned Hargan's whereabouts for Kevin Foley's crucial equalising goal. Niall Guiden got off lightly.
"Naturally enough we were all devastated with the defeat. It was a game we should have won many times over but Meath persisted and finally got the better of us. A lot of the lads were disillusioned but we had to pick ourselves up and go again," says the Pearse Street based fireman.
It was back to the drawing board. Dublin had to start from scratch. A national league victory for the season was poor consolation - no consolation. Dublin's resolve had to stiffen. Hargan was worth his place but there was no certainty that he and the other veterans wanted to be part of it.
A cleanout of sorts began. Ciaran Duff jumped ship. Barney Rock and Joe McNally were thrown overboard. The championship winning class of 1983 was reduced to two - O'Leary and Hargan remained.
Hargan had retired once before - in September 1990 - complaining of the wear and tear of a decade's involvement in intercounty football. "I needed a break from football as I had lost my appetite for the game and was not enjoying it anymore."
In the aftermath of the July 7th debacle the easy option would have been to call it a day for good. He didn't take up that option because of a belief that the good times were just around the corner.
"The fact that we won the league last year has made us believe that the potential is there to go on and win a Leinster title and an All-Ireland title," says Hargan.
Nobody complained at Hargan's decision, for his contribution to the metropolitan cause has been characterised by consistency. He first emerged in the wake of the final disintegration of the hero worshiped "Heffo's Army" of the 1970s. The nadir came in 1981 when Laois put paid to Dublin's hopes of an 8th successive Leinster Final appearance.
With the end of an era on hand, young blood was needed and there was no shortage of applicants - the blue jersey had a magnetic like attraction. The deeds of Hanahoe, Keaveney, Hickey et al were still fresh in the memory. Youngsters of the day were weaned on the hopes of recreating these dreams for themselves. Gerry Hargan was no different.
"My debut came in a National League game in November 1982 against Kerry in Tralee. It was a great experience to play for the county and I was delighted to be part of a side that included some great players, the likes of Anton O'Toole, Tommy Drumm and Brian Mullins who were part of the great side of the '70s."
This inter county call up coincided with the emergence of Ballymun Kickhams as a dominant force in Dublin football. Hargan, along with Barney Rock, Anto McCaul, Dermot Deasy and John Kearns were leading lights in the Ballymun Kickhams side that captured the county championship in 1982. Another title followed in 1985.
His first three years in blue coincided with Dublin's most successful period in recent championship history. As if by divine right a new look Dublin - Mullins, O'Toole and Drumm remained of the '74 - '79 vintage - immediately found it's way into the All-Ireland winners enclosure. The "Twelve Apostles" - the "Dirty Dozen" to others - as they were coined by the Hill 16 faithful captured the Sam Maguire in 1983 at the expense of 14 man Galway by the scoreline of 1-10 to 1-8.
In 1984 and '85 further Leinster titles were garnered as Meath and Laois played second fiddle. However, in successive All-Ireland finals the Dubs succumbed to the might of Kerry. Hargan had to be content with an All Star award in 1985.
From 1986 onwards, Dublin and Hargan had to be content with much less than Leinster titles. In 1986 there was a role reversal as Meath scored a 0-9 to 0-7 victory in the Leinster Final. For the next five years these roles remained reversed - save a lone Leinster Championship success in 1989 and League titles in 1987 and last year.
With the demise of Meath at the hands of Laois in Pairc Tailteann the door to Dublin success became slightly ajar. Now Dublin, after a five match campaign to date - spanning nearly four months - finally have the chance to unlock the key to the Sam Maguire and close the door behind them.
Hargan is eagerly anticipating a return to the All-Ireland stage after a seven year itch. "It's great to be back in an All-Ireland after such a long time. I was in my early twenties when Dublin played in three successive finals and so maybe the importance of the occasion passed some of the younger players by. It's only when you are not in an All-Ireland that you realise the importance of the occasion."
On Sunday Hargan will come face to face with one of the best exponents of full forward play - Dungloe clubman and former Sligo RTC college star Tony Boyle.
"He's a fine player and probably was the man of the match in the semi final against Mayo. All I can do is see how it goes," says Hargan.
This laid back nature is a typical Hargan response, one which has served him well throughout his career. In that career he has faced some of the best full forwards of his generation in Brian Stafford and Eoin "Bomber" Liston. These two players will surely testify to his worth. This grounding must be to his advantage on Sunday.
On the game itself, Hargan is under no illusions about the task in hand. "It will be a very hard game as Donegal are a good team. In a league quarter final tie, were were in trouble, only to be saved by late scores from substitute Vinny Murphy. Hopefully we'll get by again on Sunday."
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
18th September 1992
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