Saturday 16 December 2017

Dubs aiming for seventh heaven

Rory Kerr

The Leinster Championship may lack a competitive edge at the moment, but the 2017 campaign certainly hasn't been short on drama - most of it off the pitch!

Between lengthy suspensions, media blackouts and managerial departures it's a tumultuous summer in the east.

Ahead of Sunday's decider in Croke Park, three managers, namely Johnny Magee (Wicklow), Colin Kelly (Louth) and Pat Flanagan (Offaly) have all parted company with their counties.

The latter cut something of an Oliver Twist figure on Friday as he went public on a shopping list that was never met by the county board. These included €4,000 for gym equipment, a team doctor and GPS Tracking system.

Flanagan's pleas of 'please sir can I have some more' must have drawn loud gasps from his county board and perhaps a few more around the country who tend to view success as keeping the county's finances somewhere in the black.

Arguably all Flanagan could have hoped for was the proverbial team bus to park in front of goal, which leads us nicely to that business with Dublin and the first round affair with Carlow in Portlaoise last month.

The only noticeable thing about a fairly drab game which saw Carlow commit almost their entire team behind the ball in the pursuit of a respectable scoreline, was the now well publicised incident involving Dermot Connolly and linesman Ciaran Brannigan which led to Connolly picking up a 12 week ban.

We might not have heard anything more about it had Dublin manager Jim Gavin not departed from his traditional one-line responses in the aftermath of Dublin's annihilation of Westmeath in the semi-final.

Following Gavin's utterings, most of them aimed at Sunday game analyst, Pat Spillane, opinion has been split as to the wisdom of the outburst.

Gavin took exception to The Sunday Game's analysis of the Connolly incident and particularly Spillane's comments: 'The pictures tell it all. A picture tells a thousand words; clearly going to Ciaran Brannigan, the linesman, clearly putting his hand on the sideline man, clearly pushing the linesman, which he's not entitled to do, clearly with his finger pointed, threatening the linesman.'

Had Spillane not used the word 'threatening' perhaps Dublin might have been more agreeable to the panel's opinions, but a the segment led a clearly enraged Gavin to claim that Connolly's 'good name was attacked before we even saw the referee's report'.

And while Gavin has hinted that Dublin's policy of not conducting any one-on-one interviews with the national broadcaster may continue further into the summer, one might expect things to calm down a bit from hereonin.

Certainly, as Dublin head into the business end of the championship, they will need to be fully focused on the job at hand as they attempt to move one step closer to the three-a-row of All Ireland titles.

Kildare for their part will be hoping to turn the tables on Dublin, particularly after seeing their minors dethroned at the semi-final stage in midweek.

Kildare have turned out a number of impressive teams at underage level recently, but the transition to senior hasn't been as smooth.

Indeed the Lillywhites haven't reached a senior provincial decider in eight years, while the last time they actually lifted the Delaney cup was in 2000.

As such Kildare fans, despite all of the resources at Dublin's disposal, will expect their team to put up a good showing and will look to former AFL rookie, Daniel Flynn, for inspiration as they aim to end Dublin's dominance in the province.

Nonetheless, it would be a very brave man to back against this all-conquering Dublin side as they aim for a seventh successive title in Leinster.

Fingal Independent

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