Tuesday 24 April 2018

Connor: Consistency key to downing Dubs

Andrew O'Brien, aged 13 from Bray, takes charge of the Sam Maguire Cup at Keel Community Centre as Micheal O Muircheartaigh chats to former Carlow player John Nevan
Andrew O'Brien, aged 13 from Bray, takes charge of the Sam Maguire Cup at Keel Community Centre as Micheal O Muircheartaigh chats to former Carlow player John Nevan
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ON the weekend that the battle to break Dublin's stranglehold in Leinster begins anew, one of the men who knocked them off their perch in a previous hey-day has some advice for the challengers.

"You've got to come at the Dubs hard over two years, with a settled team, if you want to break them," advised Offaly legend Richie Connor last night on the eve of the SamtotheSummit challenge which is being organised by the Keel GAA club in Kerry.

Connor not only captained the team who famously stopped Kerry's drive-for-five in 1982, but Offaly began that run by ousting a Dublin team that was rampant in Leinster to win a provincial three-in-a-row themselves.

"The one saving grace in the current situation with Dublin is that this presented itself before in the '70s, when they won six Leinster titles in a row from 1974," he pointed out.

"At the time there was the very same discourse – should Dublin have two teams and how can country teams compete with them? But the reality is that every team eventually comes to its end, it's a natural cycle.

"Dublin obviously have some special players at the moment and there's also a lot of talk about the young players they have coming through.

"But they are ultimately going to find themselves in a situation where the balance between holding on to exceptional players too long and blooding new players needs to be addressed.

"That happens for every successful team, because it can't work forever, and when that happens they'll be vulnerable to an emerging team," Connor said.

He believes that anyone looking to pounce at that stage must be able to repeat their performances over several seasons.

PROBLEM

"If a team has a decent go at Dublin, the following year they have to be even better. That's been the problem recently. Teams have come at them, but then not repeated the dose the next year.

"At the moment it doesn't look like there's any team primed to take over from them in Leinster," he conceded.

"Four or five years ago Kildare looked like they might, but it would seem that their graph is after going down in the last three years.

"Meath also looked like they were coming. You never know with them what might happen."

Connor, who went on to manage Offaly and Laois, believes that an inability to nail down their starting 15, particularly in the key positions, is coming against all of Dublin's current challengers.

"If Kildare had picked up a really good forward or midfielder a few years ago, they would have been serious contenders, but the problem with Kildare is that they never seemed to have a settled team.

"The team that is the most consistent and that you could predict their selection is actually Dublin and that says a lot," he noted. "Whatever mind games are being played during the league, when championship football comes you want your best players in the key positions.

"It doesn't matter who knows that team beforehand, there's no sense playing these silly games and trying to fool the opposition, it doesn't work."

Connor was the on-field general of the Offaly team that famously broke Kerry hearts, but he was welcomed back to the bosom of the Kingdom last night as part of a group of football legends who are putting their bodies back on the line today for a very good cause.

Irish Independent

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