Well, that was a poor old final.
In fairness to Tyrone they weren’t beaten out the gate, as I’d thought they would be. But they never looked like they might win it once Dublin had reeled in their early lead and, despite the small bit of interest that Tyrone’s converted penalty injected into the tie inside the last ten minutes, in the end Dublin won at a canter.
From our perspective we can, of course, take some pride in the fact that – unlike poor old Tyrone – we made Dublin fight every inch of the way for their titles in 2016 and again in 2017. Those gladiatorial contests were light-years in difference to this afternoon’s tepid title decider and, when Dublin emerged from those two finals with the silverware, they knew full well they’d been in a real battle. Today, by contrast, was a walk in the park for them.
But that’s all the comfort we can take, I’m afraid. We can’t claim we’d have done better than Tyrone did today, for the simple fact that we ourselves were unable to win Connacht, unable to negotiate the qualifiers, unable to make the so-called Super 8s. We provided no proof this year that would justify any lofty after-the-fact predictions about how we might have fared in this year’s final.
We can’t, in truth, look to the future with too much optimism either. But, then again, neither can many other counties when surveying the behemoth that now bestrides the game.
Dublin won the four-in-a-row today not with – as Kerry did a generation ago – the same exceptional bunch of individuals. Instead, this is a team that keeps replenishing its ranks with what looks like effortless ease. In former days, big names like Brogan, Flynn and Connolly all made telling efforts in All-Ireland finals but they were onlookers today, the latter no longer even on the panel.
After their failure to complete the five-in-a-row in 1982, Kerry’s ageing titans were still able to redouble their efforts and, with a few tweaks to the side, were back soon afterwards to feast on a follow-up three-in-a-row. Their Golden Age spanned eleven years – how long, one wonders, will Dublin’s?
How about forever? It’s not, you know, beyond the bounds of possibility. All those many advantages heaped on them – not Dublin’s fault, comes the refrain: true, but it’s someone’s fault that they’ve been allowed to accumulate them unchecked – allied to superb organisation and the birth of the association’s only (almost) professional outfit, has now brought its force to bear with full, depressing effect.
The GAA needs a strong Dublin. So the saying used to go, so ran the argument for all the Bertie money – still washing into the coffers – and all the rest. Well, with five League titles and six All-Ireland wins for the Dubs so far this decade, it’s safe to conclude that the GAA has got its wish. Now, though, it must prepare to reap the whirlwind that could well follow in its wake.