Inside Track with John McIntyre
THE low-key build up to last Sunday’s All-Ireland football final was symbolic of a largely forgettable championship and the reality that title holders Dublin remain head and shoulders above all contenders. Fears that the match would turn into a defensive scrap for supremacy also played a part in disenfranchising a large section of the GAA public.
As it transpired, Tyrone had a go and stormed into an early 0-5 to 0-1 lead as Dublin failed to register a solitary score from play in the opening 18 minutes. But if anyone thought that the seeds were being sown for a shock result, normal service had been resumed by half-time when to all intents and purposes the match was over.
The champions had gone from four points behind to seven in front by outscoring Tyrone 2-6 to 0-1 in the second quarter. Goals from Paul Mannion (penalty) and Niall Scully turned the final on its head and though the Ulster men fought gallantly to the finish, Dublin are not in the habit of losing seven-point leads as they wrapped up a fourth consecutive All-Ireland title in relatively routine fashion.
It’s incredible to think that midfielder Brian Fenton, who got better as the final progressed, has yet to taste defeat in 28 championship outings in the Dublin colours. That’s a measure of their dominance under Jim Gavin and it’s difficult to see any other team gatecrashing their big ‘Drive for Five’ quest next year.
Mind you, the history books are not on their side. Between hurling and football, five different teams had the opportunity of breaking that barrier, but all found what would be an epic feat beyond them – the footballers of Wexford (1914 to ’18), Kerry (1929 to ’32), Kerry (1978 to ’81), together with the hurlers of Cork (1941 to ’44) and Kilkenny (2006 to ’09).
Dublin, however, look well equipped to go where no other county team has gone before. Apart from having some of the best footballers in the country, like Jack McCaffrey and Ciarán Kilkenny, their indepth strength is frightening. Sure, Philly McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan are starting to exhibit signs of wear and tear, but the likes of Eoin Murchan, John Small, Niall Scully, Fenton, Brian Howard and Mannion, who covered some amount of ground against Tyrone, are only hitting their prime.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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