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The Day Jayo Played In The Dublin Final, And The League Of Ireland

The Day Jayo Played In The Dublin Final, And The League Of Ireland
By PJ Browne Updated
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Jason Sherlock readily admits that he lost focus, both sporting and otherwise, after winning the All-Ireland football title with Dublin in 1995.

It didn't help that his attention was split between sports. Along with playing for Dublin, he also played League of Ireland football with UCD and later Shamrock Rovers.

At no time was Sherlock's attention more divided than in the autumn of 1998 when he played both for Na Fianna in the Dublin football championship and Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland.

In the semi-final against Erin's Isle, a club which had played in the previous five finals (winning two and losing three), Sherlock came off the bench to score a point in a 2-15 to 4-6 win not long after lining out for Rovers in a goalless draw with Derry.

"There is no hiding the fact that playing for Na Fianna helped my Dublin career, but before the breakthrough there was heartbreak. We were beaten in the 1998 Dublin Senior Championship final," Sherlock said in his autobiography Jayo.

"I found the build-up tough going. I was spreading myself too thin in the matches leading up to that.

"For instance, on the day we played our county semi-final against Erin’s Isle I was also playing with Shamrock Rovers at Tolka Park. I went straight from Tolka Park up to Parnell Park and came on as a sub for Na Fianna late in the game."

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20 September 1998; Jason Sherlock of Shamrock Rovers during the Harp Lager National League Premier Division match between Shamrock Rovers and Derry City at Tolka Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

To for both three weeks later, Sherlock had a tougher trip than the 10 minutes between Drumcondra and Donnycarney.

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At 3:30pm on that Saturday, Na Fianna were playing Kilmacud Crokes at Parnell Park in the Dublin final, but later that evening Shamrock Rovers were playing Finn Harps in Donegal. The solution: A helicopter.

Na Fianna manager Paul Caffrey said he 'very much appreciated' the gesture of his Rovers counterpart Mick Byrne in allowing Sherlock to play, as "we need to have our strongest team out against the favourites".

"The logistics were a lot more complicated on county final day," Sherlock recalled in his book, "I played the game and then drove to Vincent’s, where a helicopter with a reporter and photographer on board waited to fly me to Finn Park in Donegal for Shamrock Rovers against Finn Harps.

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"I look back on all that now and wince. I wasn’t doing either team any favours."

10 October 1998; Jason Sherlock of Na Fianna during the Dublin Senior Club Football Championship Final at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

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The final, Na Fianna's first in 14 years, ended in disappointment for Sherlock and the club. Robbie Leahy marshalled Sherlock well, and kept him scoreless. Though Na Fianna pulled back a six-point deficit to trail by the minimum with eight minutes to play, Kilmacud powered back and claimed their third Dublin senior title, winning 1-16 to 0-13.

"Tommy Carr, Tommy Lyons, Dr Pat O'Neill, and Bertie Ahern in the stands," Mick Foley wrote in his match report for the Sunday Tribute.

"The Artane Boys Band, a nice shiny trophy, even Jayo was gunning for a county title. The Dublin county final still retains the old prestige and largely delivered a game worthy of such pomp as Kilmacud Crokes held off a strong second half challenge to win their third county title.

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"Any doubts over Kilmacud's ability to contain a reputedly free-scoring Na Fianna forward line were quickly dispelled, Jason Sherlock never got a sniff and only Mick Galvin and Dessie Farrell looked threatening."

The game at Finn Park also ended disappointingly for Sherlock, and Shamrock Rovers, as they went down 2-1 in Ballybofey. For Sherlock, there was a small consolation in the thoughts of the Rovers manager.

"Jason played very well for us," said Byrne.

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"In fact he was one of our better players on the night. He had one terrific header but their goalkeeper pulled off a great save.

"He took a heavy knock with five minutes left and, despite the fact that he was adamant about staying on the pitch, we had to take him off.

"Considering he had just lost a game he was in good form going out on the park. Indeed, you would not have suspected that he had played a game in Dublin only a few hours earlier."

10 October 1998; Jason Sherlock, after playing for Na Fianna in the Dublin County Football Final in Parnell Park, boards a helicopter to fly to Ballybofey in Donegal to play for Shamrock Rovers against Finn Harps in the FAI National League. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Though 1998 ended in defeat for Na Fianna, major victories were to follow. The following season, they won their first Dublin senior title in 20 years, and went on to do the three-in-a-row with Sherlock's attentions no longer split.

"For me, sport was always an outlet to be accepted. When I won an All-Ireland, you are accepted. My sporting ambition dwindled in that time because I was happy to be accepted, as such," Sherlock said this week.

"I didn't realise it at the time, but it's something that I reflected upon. I definitely feel I wasn't the player I was before I won, probably because I lacked that focus and motivation once we got that little bit of success.

"After a few years, I realised that to give myself the best chance of performing at any sport, I need to focus. That kicked off around the late 90s, early 2000s where I only played a season with Shamrock Rovers, and then at that stage decided to focus on GAA to give myself the best chance to perform. And my teammates, I'm sure they were sick of me trying to play [both] for a few years when I wasn't performing to any decent level."

See Also: Jason Sherlock 'Thought Seriously' About Monaghan Job

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