Monday 10 December 2018

Cosgrove: Dubs want to go down as best team ever

Fenton and Kilkenny fuelling Gavin’s ‘changing of the guard’

Former Dublin footballer Ray Cosgrove. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Dublin footballer Ray Cosgrove. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It wasn't the personnel on the pitch against Wicklow that blew Ray Cosgrove away as much as the "frightening" list of absent Dubs.

Jack McCaffrey, Cian O'Sullivan, Bernard Brogan, John Small, Davy Byrne and Diarmuid Connolly were just a host of the names out of contention for a variety of reasons and yet they coped sufficiently with a 23-point win.

"It's scary to think of what Dublin were missing the last day, it's frightening. It's absolutely scandalous to think that all those guys weren't even on the field the last day and they won pulling up," former Dubs star Cosgrove said. They have been described as a runaway train given their all-conquering exploits - chasing a fourth successive All-Ireland SFC title and eight Leinster crowns in a row - and Cosgrove sees no reason why the Dubs will be slowing down any time soon.

Through his involvement with the Dublin U-15s - where a minimum of 70 players are catered for - and watching the U-20 side, he feels they only need to keep adding one or two fresh faces every year to the senior set-up to maintain standards. Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton have assumed leadership of Jim Gavin's current crop with a string of inspirational displays as the Dublin wheels keep turning and he believes their eyes are set on cementing their place at the head of a pantheon of greats.

"There is a changing of the guard. These guys (Fenton and Kilkenny) have tasted a lot of success at minor and U-21 level and now they've introduced it to senior. So they harbour no issues of stepping up to the plate.

"I definitely believe that they know that they can be the greatest Gaelic football team that ever played. I haven't heard from the horse's mouth, but I've heard through other sources that they do know that they can go down in history," he said. "They can walk around town and be compared to the Kerry team of the '70s. And they're not foolish. They know what other opportunities that that can bring, from a working perspective. They know they won't be playing football all their life.

"And if you've six or seven All-Ireland medals in your back pocket, that will certainly open doors that it wouldn't open to other people.

"But they're not foolish, they do know without a shadow of a doubt that they're riding the crest of a wave - and they don't want to let it go. They are very much driven."

Speaking as AIG announced sponsorship of the Dublin Masters Football team, the Kilmacud Crokes clubman has no reservations about their hunger for the challenges ahead and believes they are intent on maximising their return.

"Certainly from the outside looking in and by talking to fellas around the county, the boys haven't taken their eye off the ball. I know for a fact that they're more driven to win another All-Ireland this year and the year after," he said.

"They know they've got a short window of opportunity, some of these guys that have five medals that they could get it up to six or seven and the hunger is most certainly there."

That's a scary prospect for those who come in their path and with Longford - who suffered a 27-point defeat to the Dubs three years ago - up next, Cosgrove is adamant in his view that there should be a second-tier championship. Having worked with Wicklow as a coach/selector under Johnny Magee, he has witnessed the disparities between strong and struggling counties and feels pitting those of similar standards against each other is a no-brainer if marketed correctly.

"No disrespect, I've seen it, witnessed it, for two years - the gulf in class between Division 1 and Division 4 is massive. And if they were playing at a level that would suit them, it would be far more beneficial," the former All-Star attacker said.

"If the Association (GAA) put a bit more focus on a two-tier championship, the guys in Wicklow would benefit more from it. Beating Offaly in the first round, confidence would have been high going in. But losing by 23 points, does that encourage young guys to come out and wear the Wicklow jersey? It's tough. Do you want to be on the receiving end of a drubbing like that?

"You've got to sell it, maybe get Croke Park to play the game maybe before the All-Ireland final. I know it's not sexy to say you're playing in a second-tier championship, or a 'B' Championship, but I think it would be more beneficial."

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