Celebrations continue in Dublin’s fair city as fans and players alike come to terms with the county’s historic fifth successive All-Ireland win.
Having rounded off the decade with seven All-Ireland titles, rumours are circulating that a host of players may ride off into the sunset. However, according to Colm O’Rourke, it won’t matter if the elder statesmen walk away or not, Dublin will continue to dominate Gaelic football for the foreseeable future.
“I was saying it on Sunday night on the television, the best part of the team is nearly the youngest part now when you look at Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Jack McCaffrey, Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Ciarán Kilkenny – like those fellas are not going anywhere.
“The six really best players at this stage are their main driving force and are at their peak years – 24, 25, 26. And they love playing. So I think it’s curtains for a lot of teams for a while yet because I don’t see them dis-improving.”
O’Rourke, a 2019 GAA Hall of Fame inductee, feels that Kerry are now the best-placed team to topple Dublin but they still need to add four of five more players for that to happen.
The Meath man is in no doubt, however, that Dublin will win a sixth successive All-Ireland in 2020.
“I think it’s not going to stop. I think they’ll do six-in-a-row next year because they are supremely motivated. People say ‘sure they’ll get fed up of winning’ but there’s no sign of that.
“I would know quite a few of them very well and I’m amazed by the motivation. If there was another game next Sunday they’d just love to play, I think they have that love of the game.
“People say ‘why do you play football?’ You play for enjoyment and Dublin are not going to stop playing just because they’re winning, in fact, that may increase their motivation to win because they enjoy it so much.
“They are great role models, they are modest and they have a degree of humility about them which comes from Jim Gavin and Stephen Cluxton. They are a sort of model team who could keep on going indefinitely.”
Indefinitely is a strong word but O’Rourke meant it. Given the population size and the talent pool that Dublin possess, he feels the only solution long-term is to divide the county.
O’Rourke also added that, in his opinion, Dublin are under-funded despite much of the narrative focusing on them being ‘financially doped’.
“If you look at the Dublin U20s you have young (Ciarán) Archer, Peadar O’Cofiagh-Byrne who is going to come on, Sean Bugler from Oliver Plunkett’s… In any other county team, they would be straight in so they are waiting in the wings.
“I think the future of Dublin has to be what I have been saying for a long time – there is going to have to be a division.
“If somebody said to me that in another 20 or 30 years you’re still going to have one team in Dublin with the massive population shifts that we are going to have in that time, I would say that wouldn’t be in the best interests of the GAA.
“People talk about funding, I don’t think Dublin are over-funded, in fact, I think they’re under-funded because the funding goes to the development of clubs and that’s the most important thing of all. All of these coaching officers are doing a fantastic job in encouraging young people in primary schools to play Gaelic Games and for me, it’s a phenomenal success and it’s something that should be continued.
“That is not something that should be touched, it’s improving the calibre of clubs and the numbers that are taking part in our games and that is all to be complimented. The result of that in a lot of cases is that a lot of Dublin clubs are too big and there probably needs to be more clubs.
“At some stage, the division of Dublin needs to be seriously examined.”
O’Rourke feels that if the GAA don’t divide Dublin then the only other solution is to encourage Dublin-based players to explore playing for other counties through the parentage rule.
“It’s a messy business, drawing up a new county and who plays with who but the GAA isn’t an organisation which was built around principals of professional sport where you can have domination and things like that.
“The only other way, if they’re not going to divide Dublin, is there has to be some way where a lot of the very good club footballers in Dublin are either encouraged to go and play with other counties which for some reason hasn’t happened with parental rules or some type of transfer system.”