Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 17 February 2018

Hunger: how tough it is to claim a Dublin senior football title

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

NOBODY needs to tell the players and management of St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh or St Brigid's how tough it is to claim a Dublin senior football title.

The combined total of Dublin SF championship victories achieved by these two clubs is precisely one.

And that solitary success of the 2011 finalists, who clash at Parnell Park at 3.30 tomorrow afternoon, belongs to St Brigid's, who triumphed in 2003.

All of which puts the achievements of deposed Dublin and Leinster champions Kilmacud Crokes in perspective.

In 11 campaigns from 2000 to 2010, Crokes won the Dublin title four times -- '04, '05, '08, 2010.

Only Na Fianna (2000 and '01) and UCD ('02 and '06) have achieved more than one victory, with St Brigid's ('03), St Vincent's ('07) and Ballyboden St Enda's ('09) taking their place in the limelight once each over that period.

Now Dublin's holy grail is destined for a change of scenery, as Brigid's beat Crokes 0-8 to 0-7 in round four a few weeks ago and halted the Stillorgan club's success story in its tracks.

The wounds are still raw for Paddy Carr, the manager who guided Kilmacud to two Dublin, two Leinster and one All-Ireland club success since 2008.

Carr resigned as Crokes boss last week, feeling it was time for a change at the helm, but true football man that he is, he can appreciate the respective qualities of tomorrow's finalists and predicts: "It has the makings of a classic."

St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh boast the talents of the three Brogan brothers, Alan, Bernard and Paul, along with fellow county star Ross McConnell, 1995 All-Ireland winner Jason Sherlock and Meath's Anthony Moyles.

Barry Cahill is the driving force for St Brigid's in midfield, with fellow Dublin players Sean Murray and Paddy Andrews also in the ranks, and former Ipswich goalkeeper Shane Supple wearing the No 1 jersey.

Carr knows more than most the challenges faced in seeking to become the top club in Dublin.

"There are two key aspects in terms of winning the Dublin championship -- one is that you generate momentum, and the other one is building the right team ethic and values within the dressing-room," Carr said.

"Obviously, with Dublin winning an All-Ireland that job becomes more acute.

"It's about which management team can get the mindset right in the dressing-room, because what you have is a group of players that have been basically treading water for months on end, and then having the club championship come at them hell for leather.

"Hunger and desire is huge but in the case of St Brigid's what has been impressive is that they gained a lot of momentum going through Division 1 of the Dublin league.

"People underestimate the significance of this, because it helps blend the team together, and they had only a couple of guys to reintegrate into the team after the All-Ireland.

"It's probably a little bit more difficult for Oliver Plunketts.

"They had a number of lads, including obviously the Brogans, with Dublin, and getting them back to the club and into a system of play that works for them, there's a challenge there.

"It's intriguing that Brigid's were there last year. They've got great momentum going through the league, and Barry Cahill, he's really given huge loyalty to the club and got back in there and he's driving it, which is a real sign of maturity.

"Oliver Plunketts have a star-studded team, with huge experience, huge talent and there's a huge incentive on their side as well.

"The fact that Brigid's beat Oliver Plunketts in the semi-final last year is a huge incentive to Oliver Plunketts, who have been within touching distance over the last number of years, so it has the makings of a classic."

Carr got a close look at Brigid's when they ousted Kilmacud, and saw that the Blanchardstown outfit had upped their game since the 2010 county final meeting between the clubs.

"Shane Supple's influence in goal has been huge. He was without question the difference between Kilmacud going through and not. He made three outstanding saves against us from one-on-ones, they were just exceptional," said Carr.

"Brigid's have a very solid defence, but we noticed that since last year's county final they really have upped their work-rate in and around the middle third of the field.

"Kilmacud would pride themselves on the amount of breaking ball they'd win, but certainly Brigid's have improved in that area, as they showed against us and in the second half of the semi-final against Ballymun."

Tomorrow is all about Brigid's and St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh, but somewhere along the line, Carr will be back in charge of a team, perhaps even a county side.

"It was quite an emotional decision to resign. I wouldn't see myself as having finished my ties with Kilmacud, but a lot of these things are based on gut feelings," he said.

"The nature of management is such that there's a very thin line between when it's your own decision and somebody else's, so I certainly felt it was the right thing to do.

"I love the challenge of maximising the talent and creating the right culture in a team.

"It would be hard to find a challenge that would be as significant as Kilmacud, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the future."

Irish Independent

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