08 Dec 2021

INSIDE TRACK | When Dublin misfire it’s usually only for part of the game


INSIDE TRACK | When Dublin misfire it’s usually only for part of the game

Louth's Tommy Durnin and Brian Fenton of Dublin during this year's Leinster SFC meeting in Portlaoise.

It’s not strictly correct to say Dublin don’t do second chances. They were brought to a replay by Mayo in an All-Ireland final a few years ago, and though the second match was another close one, the result had the usual look to it.

What the record-seekers definitely don’t do is second half chances. If the opposition has been given slack in the opening 35 minutes, you can be sure it won’t be available after the interval. That’s how it was in this year’s Leinster final and again in last Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final. 

Meath were wasteful with the chances they were allowed create in the provincial decider; playing against a misfiring Dublin side they could have been on terms or maybe even in front. It was all so different in the second half. Dublin cranked it up and were well clear at the finish.

Unlike Meath, Mayo made good use of the supremacy they enjoyed in the first half, but within minutes of the restart, the many thousand from the West who contributed to a maximum attendance must have sensed this was going to be another of those days, of which there have been all too many in the past 30 years.

It was as if Jim Gavin had taken out the oil can at the break. A machine that had been squeaking began to move with the smoothness of a Rolls just off the production line. Yes, Mayo were rolled over, the gallant Connacht men unable to compete with the power and efficiency of a team that now stands within an ace of creating history. 

The second of the weekend’s semi-finals followed the same pattern in that the team that looked the part in the first half didn’t win. If anything, Tyrone were more comfortable at the change-over than Mayo had been the day before, but couldn’t see it out. Kerry, giving meaning to the oft-heard ‘a team’s strength is in its subs’, turned a four-point deficit into a 1-18 to 0-18 win, Stephen O’Brien’s goal the score that in the end made the difference.

Right now, as he looks to a final that will see Dublin bidding for a glory never previously experienced in the history of the Association, taking on a county that was twice in the past denied the elusive five-in-a-row, O’Brien doesn’t know if he’ll be involved. Sunday’s man-of-the-match was black-carded, and having twice already in the championship received the same punishment he is, according to rule, ineligible to compete on the first Sunday in September.

Tyrone’s main playmaker all season, Peter Harte, was down the same road this year, but because he was successful with an appeal against his third black, the Errigal Ciaran clubman missed no matches. However, had he picked up another one on Sunday and Tyrone won, he would have missed the final. 

Just how much that played on his mind only Harte himself can answer; but to this observer, this wasn’t anywhere near the Red Hands’ great influencer’s best of the season. His goal miss as Tyrone tried all they know to try to get back into it in the final quarter was costly. On another day it would have been a rich picking for him.

So now it’s on to a renewal one of the game’s great rivalries which began when Kevin Heffernan brought the Dubs’ from obscurity to win the 1974 All-Ireland. Heffernan masterminded three title wins - Jim Gavin is going for his sixth. Kerry boss, Peter Keane, is new to the job.

Kerry have tradition, more titles than any other county and a few footballers who’ve made the grade on their transition from underage mixing nicely with experience. But Dublin are phenomenal, arguably the greatest ever team. September 1 should see them become a one-off. 

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