ONE OF THESE years, Brian Fenton is going to experience what it’s like to lose a championship match in a Dublin jersey.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
The Raheny midfielder made his debut in 2015 and hasn’t suffered defeat once in 28 games across four seasons. He’s a four-time All-Ireland winner and at the relatively young age of 25, it’s reasonable to assume he still has his best years ahead of him.
It’s a frightening prospect for the rest of the country.
He’s likely to pick up his third All-Star later this winter and a second nomination for Footballer of the Year.
It’s even more remarkable when you consider he didn’t make a mark at minor level and only started to show glimpses of his talent in 2014 under Dessie Farrell as Dublin U21s won the All-Ireland crown.
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Unlike the majority of his Dublin team-mates, he didn’t receive a scholarship to college but thrived as a footballer at Sigerson level in UCD.
He admitted that when the invite came over the phone from Jim Gavin to join the senior set-up prior to the 2015 campaign, he thought it was a prank call.
His clubmate Ciaran Whelan was regarded as one of the finest midfielders to play the game and never even experienced playing in an All-Ireland final, with his career falling agonizingly in between Dublin’s 1995 and 2011 successes.
Fenton consoles Mattie Donnelly after the full-time whistle yesterday
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Fenton appreciates he came along at the right time, with an exceptional group of players and manager.
“It is unbelievable but not something I particularly think about either,” he says of his undefeated streak.
“I’m just one of 15 on the pitch, one of 26 on the match day, and that’s not just saying that. I have some part to play, but there is a lot more going on that just me.
“As I said, to play in this era, with these players, under Jim Gavin, is so special, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.
“To play for Dublin, in this era, is such a privilege, and to be healthy and young and playing in Croke Park, it’s a dream come true.”
Standing at 6’4″, Fenton’s frame meant he was a talented swimmer in his teenage years. His older sisters swam competitively while his uncle David Cummins represented Ireland at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Perhaps it was his Kerry blood that pushed him towards Gaelic football. Like Cian O’Sullivan and Bernard Brogan, Fenton has lineage from the Kingdom with his father, also Brian, hailing from Spa.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
His mother Marian passed away in 2013 before her son became a household name, but she would be extremely proud of his achievements on the football field.
“I was just saying to the lads, it’s those first couple of seconds and minutes, straight after the game, when you see your family and your friends, and you get to share all that with the players, is something so unique, and so special, and just incredible. And just feels amazing.”
“My dad is a Kerry man, and keeps reminding me of the heartbreak of 1982, and the Offaly last minute goal. But look, four-in-a-row wasn’t talked about at the end of last year, so we’ll just enjoy this.
“I’m sure Jim Gavin will have a plan to go again in December, January, but we’ll enjoy this for a while, them hopefully come back as strong next year.”
He arrived out of the Croke Park dressing rooms sporting a shiner underneath his right eye – a souvenir from a teak-tough battle with Tyrone.
“It was physical, I think the (black eye) was from the throw-in. I remember after the throw in just feeling it. But to be fair, I did have a man in my face for most of the game, talking the talk, but look, you have to take that.
“It’s a compliment I suppose from Tyrone, that Mickey Harte would put a player looking after you, man marking you, but you’re well used to that at this stage. It’s just so special to come out with the win.”
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