Last weekend GAA supporters saw something they hadn’t seen in over 14 years, someone other than Stephen Cluxton wearing the number one jersey for Dublin in the football championship.
Ever since a defeat to Páidí Ó Sé’s Westmeath in the opening round of the 2004 Leinster Championship, Cluxton has played in every championship game for Dublin.
The man who replaced Stephen Cluxton last weekend was only six years old when Cluxton missed out that day against Ó Sé’s Westmeath.
Evan Comerford impressed many with his display against Laois, with people saying he looks like a carbon copy of Cluxton, due to his quick and accurate kick outs.
Although Comerford will likely return to his place among the substitutes when Dublin get their Super 8s campaign underway, due to his performance last weekend Comerford has been deemed a worthy successor when Dublin’s greatest ever goalkeeper decides to call it a day.
Cluxton, who turns 37 in December, won’t be Dublin’s number one forever and while Comerford is currently happy with his place on the substitute’s bench, in another year or two he will be breathing down Cluxton’s neck for the number one jersey.
Of course over the year’s many other fine goalkeeper’s have looked on from the Dublin bench as Stephen Cluxton became the most revered goalkeeper in GAA history.
Let’s take a look at some of the keepers who have held that number 16 jersey down through the years, honourable mentions to Sean Currie, Michael Savage and Paul Copeland who also served time on that Dublin bench.
The man who started in goals against Westmeath the last time Dublin went without Stephen Cluxton in the championship, is actually a former All-Ireland winning minor with Kerry.
Beaufort native Murphy started between the sticks as a Kerry minor team featuring amongst others Mike Frank Russell won the 1994 minor All-Ireland title.
After playing for finishing school Murphy moved to America where he spent four years on a soccer scholarship in Boston University.
Murphy returned to Ireland and moved to Dublin and began playing for Kilbarrack club Naomh Barróg.
A year into playing for Naomh Barróg, Murphy was called into the Dublin panel by then manager Tommy Lyons.
During this time Murphy was neck and neck with a young Stephen Cluxton as to who would replace Davy Byrne as Dublin’s number 1.
Cluxton won that battle, but Murphy remained on the Dublin panel for the next few years and would make his senior championship debut after Cluxton got sent-off against Armagh during the third round of the 2003 All-Ireland qualifiers.
Murphy kept his place for the first round of the Leinster Championship the following year, but could do little as Dublin stumbled to a shock defeat to Westmeath.
Murphy would never play another championship game for Dublin and would depart the panel once new manager Paul Caffrey took over in 2005.
After his Dublin playing career came to an end, Murphy remained in Dublin where he currently works in the pharmaceutical industry.
The man who replaced Murphy on the substitute’s bench led perhaps the biggest double life in Dublin GAA history. John Leonard got onto the Dublin panel in 2005 and during his time on the panel led a life that few could imagine.
Leonard drank heavily and took copious amounts of drugs during his teens and well into his adult life. Leonard has since admitted to turning up to Dublin training half blitzed.
Despite all this Leonard was a great goalkeeper for St Sylvester’s and many expected him to make the jump to the senior panel when John O’Leary retired from in the late nineties.
Leonard was unfortunate to come on to the Dublin panel at the same time that Stephen Cluxton was tightening his grip on the number one jersey.
Leonard remained Cluxton’s understudy during his four year stint on the Dublin panel and frustratingly for him he didn’t get many opportunities to prove his worth for the Dubs.
Pat Gilroy dropped Leonard from the panel in 2009 and from there the St Sylvester’s man decided to make the move to Australia.
Leonard wrote what many regard as one of the greatest GAA books of all time, when in 2015 he released ‘Dub Sub Confidential: A Goalkeeper’s Life with – and without – the Dubs’.
In ‘Dub Sub’ Leonard goes into detail about his drink and drug abuse and the sexual abuse he suffered by his parish priest.
At times ‘Dub Sub’ is a heavy read due to the subject matter discussed, but the over arching theme is a familiar one to GAA people, despite all the pain and abuse that Leonard has suffered over the years his love for GAA and the escapism it gives him remains.
John Leonard continues to write and you can find him at soberpaddy.com.
Now to a man who has been in the news lately, Shane Supple has had perhaps one of the strangest goalkeeping careers of all time.
Like so many others Supple made the move to England as a young teenager in the hopes of becoming a professional footballer.
Supple made the move to the Ipswich Town academy and made his first appearance for the Ipswich first team in August 2005 at the age of 18.
Over the next few seasons Supple struggled to claim the number one jersey at Portman Road and was consigned to the bench.
In August 2009 Ipswich agreed to cancel Supple’s contract on the request of the player.
Supple’s reasoning for leaving Ipswich was that he had fallen out of love with the game and wished to pursue a different career path.
Another motivating factor in his return home was his desire to play for Dublin and he now set his sights on claiming the Dublin number one jersey.
Supple excelled in his first season for St Brigids and helped them win the county title in his second year.
Thanks to his consistent displays for Brigids Supple made it onto the Dublin panel in 2012 and would go onto win an All-Ireland in 2013 with the Dubs. Supple would leave the panel a year later, having never made a championship appearance for Dublin.
Although he was never able to dislodge Cluxton as Dublin number one, Supple has no regrets about his time with the Dubs and is happy to have had the opportunity.
Supple returned to professional football in 2016 when he signed for Bohemians, mixing his time between the sticks for the Phibsborough club and his commitments with St Brigids.
In May of this year, Supple was called into the Republic of Ireland squad for the team’s friendlies against France and the USA.
Although he didn’t make an appearance Supple’s ability is still highly valued by Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.
Shane Supple continues to play for both Bohemians and St Brigids, while also working in recruitment and as a Life and Performance coach.
GAA columnist with the GAA Wrap.