Going the qualifier route has thrown up all manner of new experiences and new routines. For me, one of them has been to do a post on each of our upcoming opponents in the championship ever since our unexpected Connacht semi-final loss to Galway back in June.
At the start this was just to refresh my own memory about the county we were about to face and how life had been treating them of late but I’ve kept it up as the qualifiers morphed into the business end of the championship. And so here we are at the final.
Our opponents on 18th September need no introduction. Dublin – the six-in-a-row Leinster champions, defending All-Ireland champions, four-in-a-row League winners – are undoubtedly the form team in the country. Huge support, constant home advantage, more resources than Man City – sure aren’t they wearing the Man City jersey this year? – they’re the lads that have it all.
Seriously, though, that recent track record shows that Jim Gavin’s charges are a formidable groups of ballers. Since we beat them in the 2012 semi-final (the last time we bested them in League or championship, by the way), they’ve only lost once in the championship. That was the upset loss to Donegal in the 2014 semi-final.
They won all six matches they played in the 2013 championship (beating us by a point in the final), won four and lost one in 2014 and won six of the seven games they played (the other one being the semi-final draw with us) in 2015, ending up winning Sam again.
Since the Donegal loss, they’re on a two-year unbeaten run in the championship, a streak spanning twelve games (comprising eleven wins and one draw). Unlucky thirteen, anyone?
If you add in League fixtures, then their unbeaten run becomes even more impressive. They went through the whole of this year’s Division One campaign unbeaten, winning all nine games they played in. Last year they lost twice – to Cork and Kerry – with that latter defeat, at the start of March last year, being their most recent competitive loss of any kind.
Since then, combining NFL and championship, they’ve won 25 and drawn 2, an unbeaten run of 27. As I said, they’re a serious team on a seriously impressive roll.
Zeroing in on their 2016 record, the League went, all told, swimmingly for them. They had a Round 1 win by 2-14 to 0-14 over Kerry at Croke Park in late January, a Round 2 win over us a week later in MacHale Park by 0-9 to 0-7, a Round 3 win two weeks later back at HQ over Monaghan by 1-14 to 0-16, a Round 4 win, also at Croke Park, over Cork on a scoreline of 2-14 to 2-10, a Round 5 win up in Newry over Down by 1-15 to 1-7, a Round 6 win over Donegal by 1-10 to 0-7 at Croke Park and a Round 7 win over Roscommon in Carrick-on-Shannon by 1-13 to 1-12. Then it was back to home comforts at HQ for the semi-final win over Donegal by 1-20 to 0-13 and the final win over Kerry by 2-18 to 0-13.
Leinster was a canter too. Fixed to play at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny (because it had more seats than O’Moore Park but, of course, the travelling Dublin support chose to stand on the terrace behind the goal anyway) they beat Laois in the Leinster quarter-final by 2-21 to 2-10. Meath were no match for them in the semis, yet again proving that this old rivalry is cold in the grave as Dublin strolled to a 0-21 to 0-11 win at HQ. Westmeath were then put to the sword decisively in the Leinster final last month, by 2-19 to 0-10.
Onto the All-Ireland series where they made light enough work of a potentially tricky quarter-final against Donegal. Despite ending the match with just thirteen players on the field the Dubs only briefly had to rouse themselves beyond second gear in fending off Donegal by 1-15 to 1-10. Then last Sunday they came out the right side of a tough and tense semi-final against Kerry on a scoreline of 0-22 to 2-14.
So, then, that’s the recent form of the team that stands between us and a fourth Sam Maguire success. Let’s get the poll going on this one: it’s as tough an assignment as we could be faced with in a final, can we do it?
Will we down Dublin in the final?
- Yes (69%, 1,073 Votes)
- No (31%, 487 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,560