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Dessie Farrell's chance to correct a rare Dublin unwanted record


Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell


Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

IN the space of a week, Dessie Farrell has preserved two records of psychological importance if you're a Dub.

He has avoided Croke Park defeat to Kerry, something which only happened once under Jim Gavin – in the 2017 Allianz League final – and he has stretched Dublin's unbeaten record against Mayo to 16 games and counting.

But now, curiously, the new Dublin manager is tasked with something very different – ending a losing streak – as his All-Ireland kingpins host Monaghan in Croke Park this Saturday evening (7.0).

Over the epic course of Gavin's seven-year reign, Dublin only once lost to the same opponent in back-to-back fixtures. It didn't happen against a heavyweight (Cork's regulation league victories in 2014 and '15 sandwiched a roller-coaster NFL semi-final defeat) but a ground-breaking underdog.

Monaghan's unlikely double came in March 2018 and January last year.

The first of those comes with a 'dead rubber' asterisk: Dublin had already secured their place in the Division 1 final with a game to spare. Not that this dissuaded some enthusiastic celebrations from the Farney army, those who understood the historical significance of Fintan Kelly's 74th-minute point to complete a 2-12 to 0-17 ambush.

Kelly's match-winner delivered a first Monaghan victory over Dublin in Croke Park. It also proved the old maxim that the best time to take the lead against a team that never know they are beaten is with the very last kick.

A year later, in the first round of a new league season, Monaghan made light of a disastrous start (six down after 25 minutes) to win by 2-13 to 1-13.

The outcome was decided by a devastating 11-minute burst during the third quarter. Capitalising on Dublin being unprepared for the attacking mark, which was then being trialled, Monaghan scored 2-3 on the spin to go from four down to five up.

Again, there were caveats: Dublin weren't long back in collective training after their latest All-Ireland team holiday, and hindsight would suggest that league title retention was well down their list of priorities for 2019.

But the result was still reflective of Monaghan's ability to punch well above their weight in spring combat with the Dubs.

Far less so in summer with quarter-final showdowns in 2014 and '17 delivering chilling defeats by margins of 17 and 10 points respectively.

All the above – those back-to-back league wins and double-digit championship exits – happened when Gavin and Malachy O'Rourke were in the opposing dugouts.

Not so this weekend. As Farrell settles into the Dublin hotseat, Séamus McEnaney is back for a second coming with Monaghan, almost a decade after his first spell ended in 2010.

This was before O'Rourke had made them an Ulster title-winning force (in 2013 and '15) or propelled them to the brink of an All-Ireland final (in 2018) but Monaghan had already become a team not to be messed with under ‘Banty' in the noughties.

The closest they came to a seismic summer breakthrough was 2007, when they lost to Tyrone by two points in an Ulster final and recovered to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals. There, as late as the 65th minute, they led holders Kerry by two points only to concede the last three scores. McEnaney famously likened the defeat to having his "heart ripped out without an anaesthetic".

Around the same period, Monaghan revealed no obvious signs of travel sickness on their ventures to the capital, more specifically Parnell Park. They drew a feisty Division 2 encounter in 2008 and two years previously ran out emphatic 1-11 to 0-7 winners over Pillar Caffrey's surprisingly pallid Dubs.

Maybe it was not so surprising as that damp squib in Donnycarney came a week after Dublin's involvement in the Battle of Omagh.

"We watched the video," McEnaney said afterwards, "and had no doubt in our minds that we were going to be able to take Dublin today, provided we took the game to them in every area of the field. And we did that. I thought our lads were absolutely tremendous."

Fourteen years later, 'Banty' is back but Dublin are in a very different place. Three-in-a-row – a stretch too far?

Online Editors