Ashling Dalton compares the current crop of Dublin footballers with the dominant Kilkenny hurlers of the last decade.
One of the big talking points of this weekend’s GAA action was Dublin’s demolition of Monaghan in the All Ireland Quarter final. While the result was hardly a surprise, the manner of the victory was. The Dublin footballers were so ruthless and clinical that comparisons can now be made with just one other team; a hurling team. Ring a bell?
The aura of invincibility which is beginning to surround the Blues mirrors the Kilkenny counterpart that dominated for football’s Gaelic rival for well over a decade. So in what ways are they compatible? Are there things that could prevent Dublin from dominating football in a similar fashion?
1. Strong Panel: Check.
Jim Gavin has promised right from the start that his primary aim is to build a strong squad and always have men to come and win a tight contest. Example? Think about the Kerry match last year. Hanging on a knife edge, Dublin looked to be on the ropes, in come supersubs Eoin O’Gara and Kevin McManaon to score 2-2 and ensure a blue victory.
Now they also have Dean Rock, MDMA, Denis Bastick, just as Kilkenny had Michael Fennelly, Michael Rice, TJ Reid, Richie Hogan. Plenty of options ensure success, no? The secret to Dublin’s further success is that these players are constantly kept on their toes, no one is assured of a place in the team. Competition breeds success.
2. An Alpha Male: Check.
The Blues’ answer to Henry Shefflin are the Brogan Brothers. Two Alpha Males capable of turning a game on a sixpence if needs be. Bernard and Alan Brogan are the conductors of the forward line supplying a healthy diet of pointed deliveries toward the goalmouth.They, like Henry, can be relied on to deliver when it matters most.
Michael Darragh McAuley is another player who is showing great leadership skills. Dublin need that. You can have brilliant players in abundance, however if none of them are willing to put in the hard graft in ugly situations, and by ugly I mean winning breaking ball and making crucial tackles, Dublin will seriously underachieve.
They need the Brogan brothers, just as Kilkenny needed Henry Shefflin.
3. Simple Style: Check.
You have to admire the Dublin style of play. Free-flowing, open attacking football. No 15 men behind the ball, just your traditional six backs. Kilkenny, down through years, have proven that, whether it is hurling or Gaelic football, you do not need an elaborate system to play the game successfully. Just play the way it is supposed to be played.
In some ways, this can be hard for other to grasp, especially if you do not have artillery available to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Kilkennys and the Dublins of this world.
Dublin will need to continue to play the game in a way that will stay true to them and also adapt to the way other team will try to play them.
4. Perfect Attitude: Check.
Mentality is key part of any team’s psyche, and particularly if you are on a winning streak, it becomes more important than ever. The reason for this is the more you achieve, the more confident you are that that success will continue, provided that it does not transcend into complacency.
The Kilkenny winning streak right from 2006 right up to the All Ireland semi final in 2010 was made possible because Brian Cody had cockiness radars all over the squad. He knew when a player’s head was not in the right place. The players simply were not allowed to slack off and believe that this winning run will last forever.
Jim Gavin, to be fair, always makes sure his players respect opposition, because when you respect them you respect yourself, and that cultivates a winning attitude.
So where are the speedbumps for Dublin?
It is the bugbear of every All Ireland winning team. There is hype when you take part in an All Ireland, even more so when you win one. The hype surrounding Dublin this year has reached unprecedented heights, that even Kilkenny have not experienced. Being the capital county, however, was always going to be a sideshow in itself.
Playing all their home games in Croke Park has also added to the aura of invincibility spoken about earlier in this article. Statistics have also contributed to this hype. Truth be told, Dublin have won 2 of the last 3 All Irelands, and they have won 8 of the last 9 Leinster finals. There seems to be no team out there who can stop them.
This is dangerous talk. If Kilkenny had believed they were the only team in Ireland capable of winning the All Ireland throughout the Noughties, they would not have won 9 titles (’00, ’02, ’03, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’12). It will be the same for the Blues if they believe all this hype that surrounds them at the moment.
Different personalities also contribute to this hype. Brian Cody was always the face behind the black baseball cap that no one really knew. He preferred to do his talking on the field instead of in front of a microphone. While Jim Gavin is equally as passionate about his county, he is a little bit more forth-coming to media hype. Kilkenny ignored the media hype, while Dublin are embracing it, which could be a tricky rope to walk on.
So what do you think? Are there are other similarities between Dublin and Kilkenny? Do Dublin have the resources to dominate like Kilkenny have done? Let us know.
Ashling Dalton, Pundit Arena.