The fallout from the recent All-Ireland football final was as extensive as there has ever been. Almost two weeks have now passed since Dublin claimed their third title in a row, yet the majority of public opinion is still debating as to whether the Dubs crossed the line on the path to success.
Before Dublin are discussed in further detail, the most disappointing analytical aspect of this game has been the failure to acknowledge the quality of football and drama that both Dublin and Mayo provided on September 17, drama that dates back over the last five years.
They both served up a feast of football back in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final and since then, outside of one loss to Donegal (Dublin’s only championship loss in the since 2012), no other team has pushed Dublin more consistently than the Green and Red of Mayo.
The 2017 All-Ireland football final was a truly outstanding game of football created by two great teams. The first half was a war of attrition and the second half opened up and saw two of the finest football teams of all time showcasing their abilities on the biggest stage.
The lack of focus on that aspect of the final has been disappointing and pretty symbolic of the negative nature that can often be associated with Irish society.
And another aspect of not just Ireland, but sport in general, is the unpopularity that accompanies teams that win.
In the modern day, this Dublin football team are ultimate winners. The numbers speak for themselves. Five of the last seven All-Ireland titles have been added to by seven Leinster titles in a row and four National League Division One successes.
These unprecedented levels of success, for any team, will lead to the general public seeking a new champion.
The fact that Dublin’s closest contenders have been beaten by the eventual All-Ireland winners since 2012, only adds to the equation.
The Dublin public have been easily offended and forceful in the defense of their own players. There is also a chip on the shoulder regarding the failure of sufficient recognition to be bestowed on the current Dublin team.
But winners are rarely popular figures.
Team’s who complete fairytales, teams who end droughts or teams who spring suprises will be popular winners on once-off occasions, but after that, outside of their own supporters, winners are never popular.
We now live in a time where almost everybody outside Kilkenny supported Tipperary in the All-Ireland finals of 2010 and 2016. A lot of sporting followers would take joy out of Manchester United’s demise after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Clare’s hurlers were pretty much everybody’s favourite team in 1995, and by the time 1998 came around, they were one of the most disliked sporting teams this country has seen.
And the reason why these teams were unpopular was over their willingness to win. A lot of winning teams will go to great lengths to receive silverware. They will push boundaries, they will break rules, they will intimidate and they will be ruthless.
And that ruthless streak is often what separates first from second.
Dublin are a ruthless team in every way, shape and form. They are ruthless in their preparation and they are ruthless in their performance. Their exquisite conditioning, probably best displayed by Diarmuid Connolly’s warm-up attire, is one sign of their meticulous preparation.
But the ground covered by players like Ciarán Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and Philly McMahon are only further signs of a team that is impeccably prepared in the physical stakes.
In terms of their skill sets, Dublin have shown again and again that they have all the armor necessary to win. And this allows them to be ruthless in attack and defence. The goals that Con O’Callaghan scored in both the semi-final and final of this years championship could have been two points for other teams. O’Callaghan portrayed that ruthless streak.
This ruthless streak and quality of skill saw Dublin convert 67% of their scoring chances in this year’s All-Ireland final, a statistic that signifies nothing but quality in skill, calmness and composure.
And on top of that Dublin displayed a ruthless streak in physically demonstrating their will to win another All-Ireland.
Not for the first time this year, Jonny Cooper could be seen to feign injury after a collision with an opponent. John Small, while already on a yellow card, put in a heavy hit that was sure to see him leave the field, but he was still willing to do so to lay down a marker.
Eoghan O’Gara was involved in an ugly altercation with Colm Boyle. Ciarán Kilkenny was black-carded and Cormac Costello was yellow carded for incidents after Dean Rock’s winning free.
These incidents may not be the prettiest, but these are the displays of ruthlessness that winning teams regularly display.
It is not an essential requirement of a winning team, but the fact of the matter is that winning teams often have players or management that are willing to push boundaries to the limit and even cross boundaries on occasion.
This Dublin team have been labelled as cheats, and if this Dublin team are cheats, than 99.99% of sports people on the planet have been guilty of cheating at some stage, successful or not.
Dubliners may feel that they are not getting the credit they deserve, but it is the basic nature of sport. People often bask in the hope that the favourite will be beaten and that the underdog will succeed.
As long as Dublin are winning, they will remain unpopular. Their actions on the field are little different to any winning team that has prevailed in GAA in the past.
This is a fantastic team, and fans and players should not be insulted by others failing to acknowledge their achievements. Winners enjoy winning in their own way, they don’t need the respect or approval of others.
The simple fact is that they have had the success, and it does not look like stopping. And while that is happening, the culture will see Dublin footballers remaining as heavily scrutinized figures.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episod of The 16th Man, where we spoke with Kilkenny legend Jackie Tyrrell