Last year he provided a number of previews over the course of the championship season and so I’m delighted to welcome JPM back into the guest slot to provide his thoughts on this year’s summer campaign. In this first of a series of pieces on the leading contenders for Sam, he looks at the prospects for defending champions Dublin.
‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’. So goes the quote. And Dublin are the reigning All-Ireland champions. But when watching current Dublin inter-county football it’s difficult to see this reference being applicable.
Early League success was severely tempered by the trip to Mayo and then a subsequent failure in Cork ensured non-qualification for the League semi-finals. No doubt this seriously disappointed the heavy hitters in Croke Park, considering the paltry 11,000 attendees for that double-header. Undoubtedly a Kerry/Dublin rematch was what the coffer boys wanted. But of the four teams that finished above Dublin in the League, all four also beat them. So it really wasn’t by fluke that they ended up in fifth place.
On top of this are the more serious questions hanging over the temperament of some of this current Dublin side. It wasn’t just the defeat in Castlebar that was significant. The lack of discipline and self-control of key men led to several yellow cards and subsequent dismissals.
Are these guys just quite happy to swan around as All-Ireland champions? Is there a belief in their heads that the rest of the country is only good for licking the mud from their boots?
If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, then Dublin could be in for an almighty shock, as unfortunately for them the stats don’t read well. Only one team in the past 20-odd years has succeeded in retaining back-to-back All-Irelands: Kerry in ‘06 and ’07. You could argue that stats are meant to be broken but Dublins’ patchy performances in this year’s League points to a dip in form. Maybe it’s only second season blues, but it certainly has given Pat Gilroy plenty to mull over.
However there are still positives. First of all will be the return of the Brogan brothers. They will bring experience and familiarity back to the team. Plus an added cutting edge up front.
Another is the fact that Gilroy has now plenty of sticks to beat this team up with. He knows he has the backing of the fans and the board, therefore he can do whatever he likes with this group of players. No-one is above him in the pecking order. The players know (or should know) that they will have to perform or they will be pulled aside, big reputations or not.
Also the players themselves know the odds are against them regarding back-to-back All-Irelands. Bryan Cullen spoke on radio about the job facing this team and he mentioned this fact stating that the team is well aware of this uncomfortable statistic.
But perhaps the biggest positive for the Dubs is being back in Croke Park itself for the foreseeable future. Croke Park feels like a fortress to Dublin, and in all honesty it does prove a most difficult nut to crack for nearly all opponents. Overall their championship record there is impressive and the added benefit of playing home League games there gives them the experience and big time feel required for the forthcoming championship encounters. With a full house it is definitely worth a couple of points on the board to them.
So really it’s no more trips to the countryside for these guys, getting waylaid in the South, ambushed out West, or shot down up North. Dublin will be hoping that the high stands of the Croker Coliseum, aligned with their baying mob on the Hill, will bring back the strength to this team. And in doing so prevent any more damage being inflicted from outside forces on their quest for more glory.
Next up Kerry.