A few weeks ago when Dublin beat Longford in the Leinster Quarter final by 27 points, all the talk was about how this is terrible for Longford and teams of their ilk, and that this was the reason that the Championship had to be redesigned so teams can compete.
You then throw in the fact the debate of whether the game should have been played in Croke Park, and you then have a lot of people who were not happy with what was happening. But one thing that was forgotten in all this was that this game did absolutely nothing for the Dublin Footballers whatsoever.
The Leinster Football Championship used to be what Ulster is now, with anything up to eight counties having realistic hopes of Provincial glory. After all, over the last twenty years Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Laois, Offaly and Westmeath have all captured the Delaney Cup, with both Wexford and Louth also coming very close on different occasions. That era though seems a lifetime ago, as over the last decade Dublin have led the rest of the province a merry dance.
There is no doubting the Championship has lost its edge with Dublin winning nine of the last ten. The first five years of this cycle is very interesting however, as Wexford, Laois, Meath and Kildare all gave the Dubs great games. It’s also ironic that Dublin didn’t reach the All-Ireland final at all during this time. The media hype for the team also went into overdrive during this period, and at times the management and players didn’t help themselves in that regard.
Everything changed, however, from 2010 onwards.
2010 was the one year they didn’t win the Leinster title over the last ten years, but that defeat to Meath in which they conceded five goals seems to be the turning point for the success of the team in the last few years. From that day on, under the tutelage of Pat Gilroy and now Jim Gavin, they have become a down to earth team with more substance and less style. They have not only landed numerous provincial titles since, but more importantly have landed the All Ireland title on two separate occasions and are red hot favourites to do so again this Summer.
In most people’s eyes, another Leinster Title is almost a certainty for this team in 2015, but in truth that is doing them no good.
Dublin do arguably have the best panel of players in the country, but there is only so much these A v B training games can do for you. It’s a cliché, but you can’t beat having the matches. Jim Gavin has an exceptional group of players at his disposal at the moment and this is mostly the reason for the lopsided view of Leinster as a whole. The Dubs standards have increased, while the rest of the province seem to have dropped. The reality is they are just too good for the province at the moment and nobody can live with them.
In truth, Dublin would historically always expect to beat most of the province, but they always had one or two teams that could really put it up to them. You had Offaly in the 80s, Meath and Kildare in the 90s and Wexford, Laois and Westmeath in the early noughties. There doesn’t seem to be that competition now, and as a result, by the time Dublin come to Croke Park in August, they are cold and are at risk of an ambush.
It has happened before and the ability for it to happen again is always there.
In most people’s eyes the top four of Dublin, Mayo, Donegal and Kerry are at the moment ahead of the chasing pack, and when you consider their paths to the latter stages of the Championship, it’s like night and day in comparison to Dublin’s. Already all three have been tested and will continue to be until they reach the August Bank Holiday weekend. For example, Donegal have to come through four severe tests before they even win an Ulster Title.
It’s as a result of this that these teams come to Croke Park so battle hardened and are ready for anything.
This weekend Dublin head into a Leinster semi-final with near neighbours Kildare. The whole GAA world is hoping and praying we get a proper game unlike the meeting with Longford. And deep down, you get the feeling this Dublin team probably do too.
If they are tested to the pin of the collar it would do them the world of good in the long run.