Right, the hurling is over and done with and we’re now just six days away from the football final. It’s time to start counting down in earnest to Saturday evening’s decider, so let’s start with a bit of a gawk at the opposition.
They need no introduction, to us or anyone else, at this stage. Five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions, which is in itself an unprecedented achievement, they head for Croke Park on Saturday with the aim of winning the Sam Maguire for the sixth straight season. And they’re raging hot favourites with the bookies to do just that.
The odds for this coming weekend’s decider are, in fact, roughly similar to how last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was priced. We all know how that one went.
In our defence, though, we came into that semi-final battered and bruised, forced to field a less than fully fit starting fifteen. We head into Saturday’s meeting coming off a far less taxing lead-in and we also do so in the knowledge that, despite last year’s second half scorching, the previous three times we met them in the final since 2013 there’s never been more than a point between us.
But enough about us. Let’s turn the focus back on Dublin and what their recent record has been like.
Once they’d dispatched us last August, Jim Gavin’s team then faced off twice against Kerry in the All-Ireland final. In truth, Kerry blew a gilt-edged chance to halt the drive for five in the first meeting between the teams, with the Dubs forced to play with fourteen men for the entire second half following Cooper’s dismissal. They paid the full price for this failure in the replay, which Dublin won by a comfortable six points.
Dessie Farrell was settled in as the new Dublin manager by the time this year’s National League Division One campaign got underway. It did so with a repeat of the previous year’s All-Ireland final and this time Dublin and Kerry played out a 1-19 each draw at Croke Park.
We played host to the All-Ireland champions the following weekend. It ended in predictable defeat for us, on a scoreline of 1-11 to 0-8, but this masked a positive opening spell for us in that game at MacHale Park. Once Jordan Flynn was harshly sent off midway through the first half, though, there was no way we were going to be able to get anything from the fixture and Dublin won easily at the finish.
Two further Croke Park matches followed for them. In the first, Dublin drew 1-15 apiece with Monaghan and the weekend after they just eclipsed Donegal on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-14.
Then, in their last game before the Covid restrictions came into effect, Dublin suffered their first loss of the campaign. Tyrone were the ones to inflict defeat on Dessie Farrell for the first time as Dublin manager, as they came out on top by 1-10 to 1-7 in Omagh.
Once the matches restarted in late October, though, Dublin got back to what they’re good at – winning matches. They beat Meath by 1-20 to 0-19 in what was for them a very rare appearance at Parnell Park before finishing their Division One campaign with the 2-15 to 0-15 defeat of Galway in Salthill. This meant they ended up second in the Division One table, a point behind winners Kerry.
Then it was onto the joke that is the Leinster Championship. Dublin won it, of course – they always do nowadays and this year, once again, they did so without breaking sweat.
They started with the token “away” game. This is never an away match in the proper meaning of the term – the last time that happened in Leinster was when they played Longford in Pearse Park in 2006 – and this year’s away-from-Croke-Park match was a Leinster quarter-final against Westmeath at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
Dublin won that one by 0-22 to 0-11. They following weekend, back at Croke Park, they crushed Laois in the semi-final by 2-23 to 0-7 and in the final inflicted almost as bad a hammering on Meath. That one finished 3-21 to 0-9.
Last weekend they squared off in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cavan, the surprise winners of this year’s Ulster Championship. The Breffni lads battled bravely but they were no match for the Dubs, who pulled away ominously after the break to win by 1-24 to 0-12.
All of which means that the team we face in Sunday won the four matches they played to qualify for the final by 11, 22, 21 and 15 points respectively. That’s an average winning margin of 17.25 points.
We, by contrast, enjoyed winning margins of 11, 6, 1 and 13 points in our four games on the way to the final. That makes for a far more modest average of 7.75.
Those numbers also hint at the scale of the task facing us behind closed doors at Jones’ Road on Saturday evening. Although our All-Ireland final record against them suggests they won’t have things their own way, everyone still expects Dublin to do it, perhaps with a bit to spare.
But what of you? For this final match of a bonkers year, let’s see how you’re feeling about our prospects of claiming what truly would be one of the great All-Ireland final upset wins.
Will we beat Dublin?
- Yes (52%, 944 Votes)
- No (48%, 882 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,826