Wednesday 16 October 2019

Seven defining days that proved to be the making of Dublin's dynasty

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Jack McCaffrey celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Jack McCaffrey celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

That manager Jim Gavin and his Dublin side prevailed where even greats like Brian Cody and Mick O’Dwyer had failed gives last Saturday night’s achievements the kind of context it deserves.

As you would expect, even this great side didn’t have it all their own way.

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On some occasions they were put to the pin of the collars, while on others they simply rode their luck and with the exception of the 2018 season, Dublin were brought to the wire at least once every season.

Here we recount some of the big moments that Dublin pulled through on the way to building a dynasty.

1 - 2014 All-Ireland semi-final

Ryan McHugh fires home Donegal’s second goal past Stephen Cluxton in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final as Dublin defenders (from left) Mick Fitzsimons, Rory O’Carroll, Cian O’Sullivan and Philly McMahon look on. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17

This will go down as the day Gavin was forced to reconsider his tactical approach. Defending champions Dublin were tipped to make light work of Jim McGuinness’s Donegal and all looked to be going to plan as they led by five points having missed two clear goal chances.

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What happened next has been written in folklore. A 20-year-old Ryan McHugh plundered 2-2 as Dublin were exposed at the back. The chance to win back-to-back titles went up in smoke with Gavin taking the blame for what happened.

"On a personal level, I accept full responsibility for that performance," Gavin said afterwards. "And I accept full responsibility for the philosophy and for the way Dublin play their football, for the attacking style we play and sometimes for the vulnerability that it brings and the unpredictability of it."

That defeat brought about a bigger emphasis on defensive structure and the switch of Cian O'Sullivan to a sweeper role. Being vulnerable to the counter-attack in the way Dublin had been soon became a thing of the past.

2 - 2015 All-Ireland semi-final

Alan Brogan in action for Dublin against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo in 2015. Picture credit: Tomas Greally / SPORTSFILE

Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-15

The story of Dublin’s successful ‘Drive for Five’ will forever be intertwined with a Mayo group that came so agonisingly close to their own slice of glory on a number of occasions. Dublin were seven points up coming down the home straight but they didn’t score for the final 15 minutes as Mayo came with a late gallop and hit 1-4 without reply.

In that charge, John Small cleared off the line from Andy Moran after a Stephen Cluxton error, while Jack McCaffrey produced a heroic block to deny Mayo sub Mickey Sweeney from pointing a score that would have put Mayo ahead.

Dublin were shipping water at that stage but might have won it at the death only for Cluxton to miss the chance to land a match-winning free in front of Hill 16 from a similar position that he had pointed from late in the 2011 final. They would have seven points to spare in the replay thanks to a late goal-scoring burst before beating Kerry by three points in the final.

3 - 2016 All-Ireland semi-final

Hanging on: Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny appeals for a free during a challenge from Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy in the thrilling 2016 semi-final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dublin 0-22 Kerry 2-14

At one stage, Kerry and Éamonn Fitzmaurice looked to have Dublin in all sorts of trouble. They hit 2-4 without reply to take a five-point lead in at the break after a half that saw Cluxton cough up a number of kick-outs and concede a goal after failing to deal with a high ball. 

Dublin recovered and led by a point in injury time before a Kerry attack was halted when Kevin McManamon flattened Peter Crowley.

Dublin turned over the ball and landed the final point of the game through a superb left-footed Diarmuid Connolly effort to secure their place in the final. Referee David Gough later admitted he got that call wrong.

4 - 2016 All-Ireland final

Colm Boyle scores an own goal in the 2016 final. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin 2-9 Mayo 0-15

Dublin produced one of their poorest halves under Gavin and through some excellent Mayo defending, no Dublin player had managed to score inside the opening half-hour.

However, two bizarre own-goals by Kevin McLoughlin and Colm Boyle handed Dublin a 2-0 to 0-3 lead heading for the break. Still, Dublin recovered to lead by three with 68 minutes gone – before Mayo clawed their way back and Cillian O’Connor levelled from 40 metres. Mayo had brought Dublin to the brink again.

5 - 2016 All-Ireland final replay

Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly collides with Con O’Callaghan during the second half. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

This game will be remembered for the decision to replace David Clarke with Rob Hennelly. The Breaffy man endured a tough day with a wayward kick-out leading to Lee Keegan picking up a black card.

Things would get worse for Hennelly when he was handed a black card himself in the process of conceding a penalty which Diarmuid Connolly converted.

Even with all that against Mayo, Dublin only got over the line by the minimum. Cormac Costello was sprung from the bench to kick three points from play as Cillian O’Connor missed a late free to level it.

6 - 2017 All-Ireland final

17 September 2017; Dean Rock of Dublin evades Lee Keegan's GPS to score the winning point from a free late in injury time during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16

Dublin had set a new unbeaten record by this stage, but for one split second in the 45th minute they looked closer to being toppled than at any other stage during their 'Drive For Five'.

Mayo trailed by a point when an attacking Colm Boyle was flattened by John Small. Small was already on a yellow and was sure to be sent off, leaving Mayo with a free to level the game with more than 25 minutes to play.

However, a rush of blood from Donal Vaughan as he sought retribution on Small saw him pick up a red card before Joe McQuillan threw the ball up. Mayo had brought them to the brink once more, but Dean Rock kicked a late free.

Once again, Dublin survived.

7 - 2019 All-Ireland finals versus Kerry

Eoin Murchan of Dublin shoots to score his side's first goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

After a relatively routine All-Ireland final win in 2018 to join an elite group of counties who had won four in a row, Dublin progressed to their fifth All-Ireland final on the bounce with the minimum of fuss.

They were strong favourites and looked to be well on their way to victory when they led by five points with half-time approaching. However, when Jonny Cooper hauled down David Clifford and was sent off on a second yellow card, the dynamic of the game changed. Kerry came strong in the second half and led late in the day only to be pegged back.

In the replay, Eoin Murchan’s goal immediately after the restart gave Dublin a lead the would never relinquish and Gavin’s Dubs etched their name in history.

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The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

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