Thursday 16 August 2018

Breheny Beat: Fear of Dubs an unhealthy perspective

A clash with Jim Gavin’s Dublin, pictured after last year’s NFL Division 1 final loss, should be embraced and not feared. Photo: Sportsfile
A clash with Jim Gavin’s Dublin, pictured after last year’s NFL Division 1 final loss, should be embraced and not feared. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It has started already and will, no doubt, gather momentum if Dublin beat Galway in Round 6 of the Allianz football league in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.

Indeed, if Dublin were to win comfortably, the theory that Galway would be better off not to have a re-match two weeks later in the final will become an article of faith among those observers who claim to know what's best for a team.

Galway have already qualified for the final and, barring surprise results in the last two rounds, will be joined by Dublin.

Put simply, Dublin have to lose their last two games (Galway and Monaghan) and Monaghan would need to win their last two to line up a Galway-Monaghan final.

And since Dublin's last group game is against Monaghan in Croke Park, it's highly probable that they will be booking in a sixth successive league final. Indeed, they may well do that next Sunday.

If Dublin were playing Kerry or Tyrone, they would be hot favourites. Less so with Mayo, who have stretched them to the limit several times over the last five years.

And Galway? They won't be given a chance. Having come out of Division 2 last season, they were regarded more as relegation than title contenders this year, but ignored the script and booked a place in the final with five straight wins, three of which were against Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone.

On the basis that tables don't lie, Galway deserve to be in the final. Yet, it they were to believe some of the comment accompanying their qualification and a likely clash with Dublin, they should see it as a punishment rather than a prize.

Lest Monaghan supporters consider it disrespectful to talk of a Dublin-Galway final while their team are still in contention, it's not meant to be. Monaghan's fate is out of their hands and the odds are against Malachy O'Rourke's men reaching the final.

Of course, if it were a Dublin-Monaghan final - which can't now happen - the dismissive attitude would be much the same as for a Dublin-Galway final.

Sympathy

Galway and Monaghan are not seen as teams that can test Dublin in a final. Instead, they attract sympathy and the wish they don't take too much of a trimming followed by serious psychological scarring.

The proposition that playing Dublin in a league final can be bad for a team's health is backed up by pointing to what happened to Derry and Cork after being mauled by Jim Gavin's marauders in 2014 and 2015.

Granted, both went into a tailspin but was it down to those defeats or other circumstances which were lurking in the background?

We can never be sure but what we do know for certain is that Gaelic football has reached a sorry state if the advice to teams is to stay out of Dublin's way for as long as possible.

The argument that Galway's summer progress would be better served by being in the Division 1 pack, remaining clear of relegation but not in the top two either, is beyond depressing.

Reaching the final is, apparently, an example of 'over-achieving', which surely has to be the daftest term in sport.

It implies that ambition limits are set by those looking in rather those at the heart of the action.

Galway may, or may not, be ready for Dublin in a final but there is a whole lot more to be gained by finding out rather than wondering about it.

Ciarán Whelan spoke on RTÉ's 'Allianz League Sunday' of the possible risks to Galway if they were to lose the league final heavily just six weeks before playing Mayo in the Connacht championship.

He is not alone in raising that issue but surely there's a wider dimension.

Firstly, Galway may not take a bad beating (and yes, let's stress again that Dublin are not yet in the final) but even if they did, so what? Learn lessons, re-group and move on.

Besides, who is to say that they wouldn't bring a different type of challenge to Dublin than what they have encountered in recent years?

The notion that Dublin are untouchable and set to rule indefinitely is nonsense, yet if opposition start to believe that, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Teams and coaches have to try something different against Dublin but, even more importantly, they need to believe in themselves.

If they are to lose, let it be to Dublin's unquestioned talents, not to their reputations. Besides, things can change quite quickly, as Dublin themselves know from experience.

Having lost to Kerry by 17 points in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final and to Meath by 11 points in the 2010 Leinster semi-final, they appeared to be stuck in bleak house.

What happened? Since then they have won five All-Irelands, five leagues and seven Leinster titles, a haul that no one could have foreseen after they conceded a total of 6-33 in two of three championship games in 2009/10.

Dublin's achievements since then have taken them into exclusive company as one of the best teams in history but far from depressing the rest of the football market, it should invigorate it.

Sadly, that's not happening in Leinster, which have five teams in the Division 1, 2 and 3 relegation places at present but others are having a go.

That is to be welcomed and encouraged, rather than being portrayed as a sentence for the crime of ambition.

Irish Independent

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