Right, it’s exactly a week until we face Dublin in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final. The match throws in at 6pm next Saturday evening at Croke Park with a maximum of 24,000 supporters in attendance and it’ll also be broadcast live on both RTÉ and Sky Sports. The LGFA SFC All-Ireland semi-final between the same two counties is on beforehand. That tie throws in at HQ at 3.45pm and will be shown live on TG4.
Although, for the first time in many years, we didn’t meet in the League this year, it’s less than eight months since we last came up against Dublin. That was, of course, in last year’s pre-Christmas All-Ireland final, which Dublin won by five points to claim their sixth Sam Maguire title in a row.
Since then the Dubs shared the Division One League title with Kerry – like ourselves in Division Two, there was no opportunity for them to play the League decider – and then proceeded to canter through Leinster at their ease. That was their 11th Delaney Cup success on the spin and the 15th time in 16 years that they’d emerged as top dogs within the province.
Before a ball was kicked at all this year, though, Dessie Farrell and his team were in the headlines, for the wrong reasons. This was because they were rumbled by the Indo taking part in collective training at a time when this wasn’t allowed by the Covid restrictions.
Dessie was handed a rather meaningless twelve-week ban for this infraction, with his team forced to forfeit home advantage for the one League match they were meant to play at Croke Park. In this year’s League Dublin were bracketed in Division One South along with Kerry, Galway and Roscommon.
Dublin began their campaign at Dr Hyde Park where they got the better of Roscommon by 1-22 to 0-16. Cormac Costello was the star of the show, bagging a personal tally of 1-13 on a day when the new penalty rules got a fair bit of airtime. Dublin were awarded three penalties in that game, with Costello goaling from one, skying another over the bar and seeing a third cannon back off the post.
The Whitehall Colmcille player was among the scorers in Dublin’s second match too. That one was against Kerry and, with the Dubs losing home advantage, it took place at Semple Stadium in Thurles, evoking memories of those classic qualifier encounters at the same venue back in 2001.
The meeting in May was a bit of a classic too. Dublin plundered three first half goals, two from Con O’Callaghan and the other from Costello, who then added a fourth from a penalty in the second half. Kerry twice fought back from behind, with a David Clifford penalty deep in injury time salvaging a 4-9 to 1-18 draw.
The Metropolitans were back across the Shannon the week after that. This time it was down the motorway to Tuam, from which they came away with a hard-earned 2-16 to 1-15 win over Galway. Con O’Callaghan was the main man for them in this one, the Cuala player weighing in with 1-3 of his team’s tally.
Dublin came second, behind Kerry on points difference, in Division One South and so were paired against Donegal in the NFL semi-final. In what was ultimately a rather pointless game – regardless of which of them won there wasn’t going to be a final as Kerry were in Championship action the week after – Dublin emerged from Breffni Park four-point winners on a scoreline of 1-18 to 1-14.
The Liffeysiders’ travels continued in the Leinster Championship, as they headed to the south east to face Wexford in the quarter-finals at Wexford Park. This was the first time since 2005 that Dublin had played an away fixture in Leinster. Is it any wonder they’ve hardly had a glove laid on them within the province since then?
The Model County did okay against their highly-vaunted visitors, losing in the end by 0-15 to 0-7. While this was Dublin’s 31st Leinster SFC victory in a row it was also the lowest winning margin they’d recorded in a provincial fixture since 2013.
Finally back at Croke Park, Dublin came alive in the first half of their Leinster semi-final against Meath. Leading by 2-11 to 0-6 at half-time, this looked like the resumption of normal service from the champions but the Royals stormed back into it in the second half and were only three points down as the game went into injury time. Three late scores gave the Dubs a six-point cushion at the finish, as they won that one by 2-16 to 1-13.
The result of last Sunday’s Leinster final was never really in doubt. Kildare set up defensively, apparently aiming to keep the losing deficit to reasonable margins, but Dublin still ran out comfortable winners by 0-20 to 1-9.
So that’s Dublin’s record to date in 2021 – they’ve played seven times, winning six times and drawing once. Like ourselves, they come into Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final unbeaten this year but, of course, their unbeaten record in the Championship stretches way back to 2014.
Their head-to-head record with us brooks no arguments either. We last beat them in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2012, having also given them a bit of a trimming earlier that year in the League. Since then, though, our record against them has been a truly dismal one.
We’ve drawn with them three times since then – in the League in 2014 and in the Championship in both 2015 (at the semi-final stage) and 2016 (in the final) – but aside from that it’s been losses all the way.
We lost to them in the League (twice) and the Championship in 2013, in League and Championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017, in the League in 2018, and once again in both the League and Championship in 2019 and 2020. Since our most recent draw with them – in the 2016 All-Ireland – we’ve suffered eight straight losses, four each in the League and Championship.
But, sure, it’s been the same for everyone else, I hear you say. Only that’s not wholly true.
They lost in the League to Tyrone at Croke Park in 2013, to Cork (at Croke Park) and Derry (at Celtic Park) in 2014, which was of course the most recent year they didn’t win Sam, to Cork (at Páirc Uí Rinn) and Kerry (at Fitzgerald Stadium) in 2015, to Kerry (at Croke Park) in the 2017 final, to Monaghan (at Croke Park) in 2018, to Monaghan again (in Clones), to Kerry (at Tralee) and to Tyrone (at Croke Park) in 2019 and to Tyrone (at Omagh) last year.
In short, others have, now and again, had some spring success against the Dubs, even if everyone has had to yield to them in the Championship. Our failure, meanwhile, to record a single win of any kind over them in the past nine seasons stands as a pretty stark statistic.
But, of course, Saturday offers us the opportunity to try again. Dublin go into this game, needless to say, as strong favourites to advance to the final, for the seventh successive year. We’ll once again be looking to upset the odds by recording a victory over them to match the kind of seismic wins we recorded over them at the same stage of the Championship in 2006 and again in 2012.
So, then, what do you reckon – can we, at last, down the Dubs this coming Saturday?
Will we beat Dublin?
- Yes (60%, 793 Votes)
- No (40%, 519 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,312