Éamonn Fitzmaurice believes off-field issues played a major role in Dublin’s inability to win the All-Ireland football championship for a seventh consecutive year.
Dublin’s regression wasn’t exactly unexpected after losing a number of key men in recent times such as former manager Jim Gavin and long-serving captain Stephen Cluxton, but their performances this year were certainly below what was expected of them.
The Dubs’ capitulation after half-time in their All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo was undeniable proof that Gaelic football’s most dominant team in history was on the downwards slope, after a number of unconvincing wins in the Leinster championship.
Former Kerry manager Fitzmaurice was writing in his column in the Irish Examiner and identified Dublin’s off-field struggles as a potential reason for their downfall.
Not the result we wanted yesterday, but what an incredible six years we’ve had with this phenomenal group of players. Thanks for everything, lads ?
— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) August 15, 2021
Éamonn Fitzmaurice on Dublin’s off-field behaviour.
“I felt all this season that they were on the wane, and reasoned that all of the departures simply meant they couldn’t be as strong,” Fitzmaurice wrote.
“What I was surprised by though was some of the normally impeccable management of their off-field distractions. I think this is something Dessie Farrell will look at when he reviews the season.
“The covid breach was a serious own goal and was plain wrong, the Cluxton saga dragged and dragged, and some of their dealings in the media, normally so stage-managed, amazed me.
“Over the course of the summer, many of the Dublin players seemed to have a louder and more prominent presence on social media than before.
“Had they taken their eye off the ball? Had profile become more important than performance? It is human and natural, and they have been phenomenal to maintain their standards for so long with such success.”
The Dubs’ loss of key personnel led to lack of composure.
While Dublin still have plenty of quality players on their panel, the loss of senior figures within the team seems to have resulted in a lack of composure at crucial times.
The Dubs gave away several needless fouls in the second half which handed Mayo the incentive, with even two-time All Stars footballer of the year Brian Fenton being guilty of blatant foul play on one occasion.
Dublin still have plenty of experienced heads in their team, such as Dean Rock and Ciarán Kilkenny, both of whom played very well against Mayo.
However, they do appear to be lacking strong leadership at the moment, which was a fatal shortcoming of Dublin in the 2000s, before their decade of extraordinary success.