Sport Gaelic Football

Sunday 21 January 2018

No end in sight to dominance of deadly Dubs

Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

What's wrong with Leinster football? In the past, this is a question that was rarely floated in GAA circles because the standard in the province has been consistently high.

But over the past decade or so, it has become a recurring theme, with an even more pertinent question perhaps being: Where would Leinster football be without Dublin?

The Dubs have won the Leinster Championship seven times in the last 10 years and they have taken six U-21 titles in the same period.

It might be a mistake to assume that all is fine simply because the province has a super team in Dublin. Let's not forget, only one All-Ireland title has followed those seven provincial successes and that, of course, came only last year.

A return of just one All-Ireland triumph over the past decade is one of Leinster's poorest in modern times. In the four previous decades, the All-Ireland success figures for the province were two ('60s), five ('70s), four ('80s), three ('90s).

It's obvious, then, that Leinster has failed to maintain those high standards in recent years.

There are two likely reasons for this.

Firstly, most Leinster counties have declined to the point where they are no longer strong enough to be competing for the Sam Maguire and, secondly, teams in other provinces, particularly Ulster, have vastly improved.

Will Dublin's dominant position in Leinster continue in the coming years?

There has been substantial progress in the overall quality of football in the capital, as has been proven by their success at Leinster U-21 level -- they've won three of the past four All-Ireland U-21 titles.

Even at the youngest age group where national competitions take place, Feile Peil na n-Og, Dublin clubs have won the U-14 title in the premier grade in each of the last five years.

Dublin's memorable All-Ireland success against Kerry last September is highly unlikely to be a flash-in-the-pan triumph, then.

One wonders, therefore, whether other counties will seize the initiative, step up to the plate and threaten the Dubs' dominance over the next few years.

The rise of Kildare, despite their failure to win anything, is evoking great interest and many see them as supplanting Meath as Dublin's greatest rivals.

That could all change tomorrow, of course, if Kildare fail to beat Meath and, in fairness, it never takes much for the balance of power to change in the province.

In general, Leinster teams, apart from Dublin and Kildare, are not making serious assaults on the All-Ireland championship.

That is not unusual in the province's history, because in the last 55 years only three Leinster counties -- Dublin, Meath and Offaly -- have won senior All-Ireland titles.

Looking back even further, in the last 84 years, Louth is the only other county that can be added to this trio.

dominance

The potential dominance of Dublin football looks likely to be the focal point of GAA attention in Leinster and beyond over the next decade at least.

The county's huge population is the biggest factor in this, while the high standard of training and management in so many of their big clubs ensures that the quality is high right across the board.

Many of the larger Dublin clubs are able to field 50 to 70 teams most weekends, so it is inevitable that the flow of young players will be almost limitless for future Dublin football teams.

The attempt a few years ago to divide Dublin into two or more teams at all age-levels never really got off the ground, but one wonders if the Leinster Council will be happy in the long term with having only one county team for an area of over one million people.

Neighbouring counties such as Kildare and Meath are also beneficiaries of population growth in the last decade, and that leaves the rest of Leinster in danger of falling even further behind.

We will probably end up with a two-tier Leinster championship in the future, with Dublin being the ever-present kingpins.

Irish Independent

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