Dublin manager Jim Gavin
We saw one five-in-a-row champions at Croke Park and may have seen another. No, make that, we did see another.
After Kerry minors enhanced their history-making achieve- ment, adding to their All-Ireland success of the past four years, Dublin seniors showed once again there is no team better than them in Gaelic football. Their six-point defeat of Tyrone gave them the supreme title for the sixth time in the present decade, the last four of those wins coming on the bounce.
Any chance of them losing their edge, complacency coming in as sub for ambition?
I go back to two years ago, after another history-maker, Stephen Cluxton, had been presented with the Sam Maguire for the second year in succession.
“Do you not get fed up winning”, I jokingly asked a blue-clad warrior I’d known for a long time, both of us sharing an interest in greyhound racing and coursing.
“We can’t get enough of it, and if you think we’re finished just watch us go next year, ” he said. He could have been speaking for the team and its astute management.
The hat-trick was the 2017 ambition, and this year a record-equalling accumulator came into focus. Now that Jim Gavin’s men have found a place alongside Wexford and Kerry, who twice recorded four successive wins, you can expect to hear lots of talk about the drive-for-five.
It’s an achievement that shouldn’t be beyond what is arguably the greatest team the game has known. Today’s game may be much different from the one played by Wexford around a century ago, and by the Kerry teams of the 1930s and the 1970s into the ‘80s, but it’s no less competitive, and since following on from their wins of 2011 and ’13, Dublin have found no team that can beat them.
Tyrone were game as they tried to put an end to the champions’ gallop, and when they chalked up a four-point lead after just 18 minutes, we wondered could this be another occasion when the Red Hand delivered a fatal blow to holders’ ambitions.
Tyrone’s first All-Ireland win, in 2003, came in a not-so-neighbourly tussle with the champions of the previous year, Armagh, and when they brought their score to three, with wins in 2005 and ’08, their victims on each occasion, Kerry, were attempting to retain their crown.
To have any chance of repeating these considerable feats Tyrone needed to take the majority of their chances. They didn’t do this, not even when they were on top. Sixteen wides is a statistic that tells its own story, though a major contributing factor was the pressure which the Dublin backs applied to the shooters.
There was also Tyrone’s failure to match the Dublin forwards’ fluency. Somehow there seemed to be more space available to them whenever Ciarán Kilkenny and his colleagues bore down on goals, and with Dean Rock deadly accurate from placed-kicks and play, Tyrone needed to make the very best of their chances if they were to stay in the game. They didn’t do this, not by a long shot.
Yet, while the challengers may not have been there to the finish, until Dublin picked off a couple of late points, the huge Tyrone contingent in the capacity attendance had reason to be hopeful.
A goal from the penalty spot - scored by the outstanding Peter Harte – followed by two points revived memories of the hurling final of a fortnight earlier, but while that day Limerick had to concentrate almost entirely on defending as Galway pushed forward, Dublin were able to create chances. By taking two of them, they were being cheered home before Cork referee, Conor Lane, brought the curtain down.
This has been the most one-sided championship of recent times. Yes, Tyrone, Monaghan and to a lesser degree, Galway and Kerry were contenders, but nothing more. Dublin were out on their own, and right now it’s hard to see it being any different next year.