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dubs' giant If you were to make a GAA player in a science lab, you’d probably make something like Brian Fenton

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Brian Fenton of Dublin and Raymond Galligan of Cavan shake hands after the final whistle

Brian Fenton of Dublin and Raymond Galligan of Cavan shake hands after the final whistle

Brian Fenton of Dublin and Raymond Galligan of Cavan shake hands after the final whistle

THREE and a half years ago, when Brian Fenton was merely a brilliant midfielder in the here-and-now, not a living Sky Blue legend, former Dublin captain David Henry gave a wonderfully evocative description of his Raheny clubmate.

One that suggested the midfield totem was as much a marvel of science as a freak of footballing nature.

“He is getting better and better. He’s one of the top players in the country now,” Henry told reporters March 2017. “From a skill point of view, from a leadership point of view, that’s not really surprising. But how he’s handled it so well, that is a little bit surprising.

“His physique has really helped him,” he expanded. “He has grown into what ... if you were to make a GAA player in a science lab, you’d probably make something like that. His size, his strength, his flexibility, his athleticism and so on.

“I wouldn’t say the perfect player, but he’s as close as you’ll get to the full package.”

That full package was on magnificent display in Croke Park on Saturday night. There was no one there to see it, bar the chosen media few and assorted officials and the extended panels of Dublin and Cavan.

It’s conceivable that quite a few watching on television didn’t stay for the full duration either. Such was the inevitability of this latest Dublin procession; the champions have turned boringly brilliant into an art form.

But it was worth sticking around if only to savour the wonder that is Dublin’s No 8 in full flow.

It has becoming something of a recurring championship trait – almost a cliché, by now – that Fenton ‘scores in fours’. He tallied 0-4 from play against Laois in the Leinster semi-final and another 0-4 in this All-Ireland semi-final.

Yet it was the quality and variety of those four points that really stood out. And all the while you had to shake your head in self-reminder that, first and foremost, Fenton is performing as a midfielder.

He is busy catching kickouts (none better than his soaring capture of a first-half restart from Raymond Galligan), winning breaks, linking play, doing it seamlessly and sometimes spectacularly, but invariably in that unflustered fashion of his.

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Brian Fenton of Dublin gathers possession ahead of team-mate David Byrne and Thomas Galligan

Brian Fenton of Dublin gathers possession ahead of team-mate David Byrne and Thomas Galligan

Brian Fenton of Dublin gathers possession ahead of team-mate David Byrne and Thomas Galligan

He is so economical that his errors – a fumble late in the first half, a left-footed point attempt that he dropped short in the third quarter – almost qualify as collector’s items.

A quick recap of those four points. In the fourth minute, he carried the ball from well beyond the 45m line, out on the left wing, leaving Gearóid McKiernan in his wake before slotting over on the run.

For his second score, shortly after the first water break, he pressed the accelerator and waltzed around a Cavan defender as if he wasn’t there before arcing another right-footed shot from almost 40 metres.

Athletes standing almost six-and-a-half feet tall shouldn’t be able to go from nought-to-60 in the blink of an eye.

For all of Fenton’s seemingly effortless ability to glide across the Croke Park turf, he has an extra gear too that belies his languid gait.

Nor can you ignore his skill set. Check out his third point on Saturday night; how he took on Oisín Kiernan on the outside, then backed himself with a booming right-footed shot from the ‘wrong’ wing.

His final point, late in the day, came after a brief foray into the full-forward position.

Racing out from goal, he took a pass from John Small and spun around onto his trusty right foot to score.

True, Paul Mannion may have cursed his prolific midfield colleague for not passing across; the three-time All Star would have been racing through on goal if the ball had arrived, and how Mannion could do with that opportunity as he battles, probably in vain, to regain his starting berth for the All-Ireland final.

To this observer’s eye, even before that score, Fenton had already done enough to warrant Man of the Match.

RTÉ opted for Robbie McDaid, who shot an eye-catching 1-2 from wing-back – and the Ballyboden defender deserves all the praise going for how, after several years on the periphery, he has filled the gaping void left by Jack McCaffrey.

McDaid has done it so successfully that he’s now the top contender for an All Star at No 7. Fenton, we suspect, already has his fifth All Star in the bag – in this, only his sixth season as a regular.

And whereas Ciarán Kilkenny was leading the race for Footballer of the Year before semi-final throw-in, the 2018 winner may now have edged into pole position ahead of the final on Saturday week.

It’s a close-run thing, but the midfielder has been on the Man of the Match shortlist three games running – against Laois, Meath and Cavan. No one has laid a glove on him.

But then, no one has laid a glove on Dublin either.

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