Friday 23 June 2017

Off the Ball: Big Four domination will be worth it come August

Concerns over early-season results are overshadowing enjoyment of golden era

Clash of the giants: Action from the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Donegal, with Mayo's Séamus O'Shea reaching for the high ball against Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher RAY McMANUS / SPORTSFILE
Clash of the giants: Action from the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Donegal, with Mayo's Séamus O'Shea reaching for the high ball against Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher RAY McMANUS / SPORTSFILE

Michael McCarthy

There was nothing enjoyable about watching a county like Kildare get humiliated by Dublin in Croke Park last Sunday. It's hard work watching Dublin in general these days.

This isn't another 'football teams can't go on playing the Dubs' column though. We've had enough of them.

And it's not just Dublin that are dominating. Donegal will play their fifth consecutive Ulster final this month. Mayo will be going for five Connacht titles in a row for the first time since 1910. Going back to 2011, Donegal, Dublin, Mayo and Kerry have lost a combined two games in the provincial championships.

In those four years, no other county has played in an All-Ireland final and each team has got there twice. Dublin, having won both their finals, are just ahead of the pack, while Mayo lag slightly having lost theirs.

There's an established 'Big Four' in football, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Having four teams so far ahead of everyone else, and with relative parity, is an incredibly rare thing and we could remember this period of football the way boxing fans look back on the Hagler/Hearns/Leonard/Duran era.

When I look back over the last couple of years in Gaelic football, I don't think of the provincial hammerings, but the incredible series of games involving these four counties. From the thrills of the Kerry-Dublin final in 2011 or the Kerry-Mayo semi-finals last year, the shock of seeing Donegal dismantled by Mayo in the 2013 quarter-final, the intrigue of Donegal's stifling of Dublin in 2011 or their comeback in 2014, to the sheer brilliance on display in a number of the games, most notably the Dublin-Kerry semi-final of 2013.

In anybody's book, that's an amazing collection of games in a four-year period, and this year promises to be just as good. The downside is the wait. When we have four all-time teams competing at the same time, there's going to be massive dichotomies of talent when you're playing in a geographical-based competition.

I can understand why there's negativity around football at the moment given some of the results, but show a little patience, and it will all be worth it come August.

In the meantime, we can revel in the positive stories this time of year throws up, like Westmeath's first ever win against Meath. That means more to the GAA than another Dublin dismantling.

Let's celebrate those days now, and worry about the Dubs in August.

Irish Independent

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