Since 2011 Dublin have dominated the Gaelic footballing landscape, and that could continue in 2019 as Jim Gavin’s side go in search of a first-ever five-in-a-row.
The ‘Dubs’ have won six of the last eight All-Ireland titles which is impressive in itself, but what is arguably more impressive is how they have managed to improve their side year on year.
Dublin’s dominance is not just down to the fact that they are the best team (which they are) it is the fact that they don’t rest on their laurels with each Sam Maguire Cup win. Members of the Dublin panel know they can’t relax having played their part because there is always someone waiting in the wings to come in and make a statement.
Former Dublin star Senan Connell summed it up perfectly at the eir sports 2019 Allianz League launch.
“Keep evolving…If you don’t get on the train, you’re stuck on the platform, that’s Jim’s motto” Connell said.
“A lot of other counties – if they won in 2011 or 2013, they’d still have Paddy Andrews, Brogan, McMenamin and O’Gara playing – the four of them didn’t see game time last year.
“I know Brogan was injured but at the end of the All-Ireland, they rocked onto the pitch, you could see the disappointment in them – they’d been winning All-Irelands and it’s a very difficult thing to do to go back to being a sub…I think every other county would have had those lads starting, based on their history.
“How do you keep the hunger at ravenous levels? Nobody knows if they’re going to get a jersey. If you’ve one bad game, you could be out for the year…”
In 2013, we saw Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion (Ciaran Kilkenny debuted in 2012) star as Dublin claimed a second All-Ireland crown in three years.
After being toppled by Donegal in 2014, Dublin went back to the drawing board and have yet to be beaten in Championship football since.
2015 saw the emergence of one, Brian Fenton who was plucked from relative obscurity only to become the most dominant footballer in the country. That year also saw Dean Rock come into his own who before then was viewed by many as just a solid free-kick taker.
As Dublin went in search of two-in-a-row in 2016, John Small grabbed a starting jersey in Jack McCaffrey’s absence and has yet to relinquish it.
In 2017, up stepped Con O’Callaghan to score goals in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final in a year where he won all before him in both football and hurling.
Last year, Brian Howard stepped into the Dublin team and filled the void vacated by Diarmuid Connolly en route to an All-Star. As well as Howard, corner-back, Eoin Murchan was introduced for the Super 8 series and proceeded to nullify both Ryan McHugh and Niall Sludden, two of the country’s form players at the time.
To sum it up, throughout their winning run of six All-Ireland’s in eight years, only Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Cian O’Sullivan have started every All-Ireland final, proving that year on year Dublin keep things fresh, which keeps players on their toes, which obviously enhances what is already a winning culture.
Given their track record, it would be a pretty safe bet to assume that someone else will make the breakthrough in 2019 as the drive for five commences and Senan Connell gave his prediction on who that player may be.
Connell feels a new addition to the Dublin XV will come down to what area of the pitch needs more depth, and for him, that is in the full-back line.
“Who’s next? I think if they need a player this year, cover has to be in the full back line. Half back and midfield, I think we’re alright.
“Seanie McMahon – the other night, he played at number three, he’s from Raheny, he’s a good player. I like the look of him there as well, he sticks ball under his arm and runs.
“Philly McMahon is obviously coming to the twilight of his career, Jonny (Cooper) will obviously stay there, Davy Byrne has been in and out for a few years.
“So cover there is the one I think they might need in terms of longevity and trying to stay on top.
“If Jonny Cooper gets injured during the season, there’s an opening there, and you don’t just throw a lad in full back, I think they’re made, it’s in their DNA to play there…It’s a certain type of player that wants to stop somebody else.”