Monday 17 June 2019

Conor McKeon: 'No hint of Drive for Five hype as fans stay away in droves'

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

If Dublin’s quest to become the first team in either code to achieve the mythical five-in-a-row is to be derailed by the associated hysteria, it’s unlikely to be blown off course in Portlaoise tomorrow.

Leinster Council estimate that there will be in the region of 16,000 people in O’Moore Park to witness Jim Gavin’s side take their first steps on a road that may end at sporting immortality.

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By way of recent comparison, that’s more than the 11,786 that attended their provincial opener against Wicklow at the same venue last year for a similarly under-the-radar first round match.

That game, however, was a stand-alone fixture whereas Dublin and Louth (7.0) share the billing with Meath and Carlow (5.0) tomorrow. Either way, O’Moore Park’s capacity of almost 22,000 won’t be tested.

So if the ‘five-in-a-row’ t-shirts have already been printed, they won’t fetch much on the black market off the M7 this weekend.

Neither will the game be shown on live television, by RTÉ or Sky, who have deemed Mayo’s second match of the Connacht SFC against Roscommon a greater draw than the opening act of the All-Ireland champions’ summer.

Repetitive fatigue is clearly an issue.

Dublin are 1/16 to win a ninth Leinster SFC title in a row and while there might be a swell in interest on June 23 when the final is played, nobody expects Jim Gavin’s team to have to do anything particularly strenuous in Portlaoise tomorrow evening.

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Even the expected return of Rory O’Carroll to a Dublin jersey for the first time in almost four years hasn’t added anything to the level of interest, although a return for Diarmuid Connolly surely would have.

It draws the inevitable question about whether Dublin supporters have become sick of watching their team win, particularly at this time of year when the potential for any other type of result is effectively non-existent.

As Dublin’s success grows, the returns at the turnstiles diminish.

This is not a uniquely Dublin phenomenon.

When Kilkenny began their 2010 Leinster SHC campaign in Croke Park with a facile 19-point victory over Dublin, the attendance was just 25,260 for what, similar to tomorrow night in Portlaoise, was a double-header along with Galway and Offaly.

Estimates indicate that just 3,000 were in Ennis on June 6, 1982 when Kerry started their Munster SFC against Clare en route to the most famous near miss in GAA history.

Jim Gavin can take some of the blame/credit for the decommissioning of ‘hype’ as a destructive force in Dublin GAA.

Interview opportunities with Dublin players — and indeed Gavin himself — have been scarcer so far this year than in any other season of his reign.

In the last ten days, however, both Jonny Cooper and James McCarthy were put up for promotional media duties and both were very much ‘on script’.

Hot on the heels of Cian O’Sullivan admitting he changes the subject to Brexit every time someone mentions the words ‘five’ and ‘in a row’ in the same sentence, McCarthy stated “we’ve never talked about any ‘in-a-row’, all that kind of stuff.”

Given his lineage, McCarthy is acutely aware of the significance of what Dublin are trying to do and his part therein.

If he has taken a vow of silence, it’s unlikely we’ll hear a peep from any other player about it until such time as Dublin have either made history or missed out.

And Cooper? “I have no interest in it, to be honest with you.”

Just the way Gavin likes it.

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