Friday 30 September 2016

Off the Ball: Back-to-back titles may be just the start for dominant Dubs

Ger Gilroy

Published 10/08/2016 | 02:30

In the league last year Jim Gavin's team were trying to score goals to rectify a perceived weakness there. This year they were learning some zen-like calm: cycle and recycle the ball, work in pods and get the head up Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
In the league last year Jim Gavin's team were trying to score goals to rectify a perceived weakness there. This year they were learning some zen-like calm: cycle and recycle the ball, work in pods and get the head up Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Dublin have rightly made a big play of the treatment Diarmuid Connolly is getting. When Tom Cribbin admitted Westmeath tried to get him sent off, he did us all a favour by confirming what everyone thought to be true.

  • Go To

It's grim and it removes the moral high ground from the sport entirely, but referees need to be less cowardly, umpires less blind and linesmen less gormless. Connolly will have to bite his tongue until things change.

All this brings the way Jim Gavin treats the league back into sharp relief. Those league games are the only opportunity Gavin has to test his players against decent teams.

In the league last year his team were trying to score goals to rectify a perceived weakness there. This year they were learning some zen-like calm: cycle and recycle the ball, work in pods and get the head up.

Their refusal to take stupid shots is leading to impressive levels of sustained efficiency.

The used the league to hone the patience required to take on those teams who come refusing or unable to play - Derry in Croke Park was the perfect preparation for Donegal.

It's not "only the league" to Gavin. It's his testing ground, his laboratory for experimentation and his petri dish to culture good habits.

The big questions last Saturday were about a Dublin defence shorn of three sitting All-Stars.

Donegal and Kerry had basically refused to try their big men in on the edge of the square during the league - there's no point in giving Dublin a chance to practise, was their logic. Now you wonder about keeping things back as opposed to practising hard in match conditions.

Dublin still have two very tough games to put together before they can claim back-to-back All Irelands. The fact that since 1990 this has only been done once will help keep complacency at bay but there is every chance that these next two games will go some distance to defining this Dublin team's legacy.

Right now they're really brilliant, but are they great? Two in a row could easily become three or four and then they're touching history.

Kerry's old guard are clearly around for one final spin - Donaghy, Gooch, Marc Ó Sé, Aidan O'Mahony and potentially a few others are in their final acts.

Mayo have a decent age profile but there are a few key leaders like Andy Moran and Alan Dillon for whom this also represents a now-or-never moment.

Dublin have just laid waste to Donegal and they'll be away for a few seasons. If they kill Kerry, forcing them into transition and then beat Mayo then there's no-one left to stop Dublin's march. Except Dublin.

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport