Sky Blues still hungry after maiden success
DUBLIN manager Tommy Brown has revealed how close he came to leaving the champions following last year's historic TG4 All-Ireland championship success.
Brown, who succeeded All-Ireland winning boss Gerry McGill in the Sky Blues hotseat, had served as selector for four seasons but the rollercoaster ride to ultimate glory left him drained.
Brown explained: "After the All-Ireland last year, for two months I was adamant that I wasn't going near it, that I didn't want it.
"Getting beaten in the (2009) final by a point against Cork, trying to recover from that and getting things back on the road -- relegated last year, lifting morale back up and then winning the All-Ireland.
"That year and a half took a lot out of everybody, the senior players and management. I honestly thought after the All-Ireland last year, I didn't feel that I had the energy to do it. But as time passed, things changed and I decided to go in and give it a go."
Dublin comfortably regained their Division 1 status, finishing top of the table with six wins from seven outings, a blip against Cavan the only blot on the copybook.
And now thoughts turn to the Leinster semi-final showdown with Meath on July 3, the first step along the road to defending the Brendan Martin Cup.
Brown, a teacher at Dublin's Larkin Community College, recalls: "That kind of enthusiasm came from some of the senior girls. There was a radio interview with Mary Nevin and Sinead Aherne before Christmas and they were saying that they were looking forward to getting back defending the title.
"To hear that from Mary Nevin, who has been around a good while, and Sinead Aherne, on the scene for six or seven years, was phenomenal. It shows that they still have the hunger and it reminds you of where you're coming from and where the mentality should be.
"Instead of feeling sorry and tired, they were fresh and ready to come back. We want to win it twice, to retain it, and that's always been the goal from day one since I took over. A few girls have left the panel but we're confident enough of getting the right players in to replace them."
Dublin will have to plan for the summer without their entire All-Ireland winning full-back line.
Brown explained: "Rachel Ruddy emigrated to Singapore, and Maria Kavanagh, the other corner-back, had been playing for Dublin for 13 years. She decided enough was enough and was a great footballer for Dublin.
"Avril Cluxton (sister of Stephen) is getting married. We respect people's decisions and we respect them for giving the commitment.
"That was one of the positive things out of the Division 2 semi-final against Cavan. We had entirely new full-back and full-forward lines in a knockout game and held our own."
Dublin will start as favourites to retain their provincial and All-Ireland crowns when the new championship season gets under way. Emerging Laois and Meath outfits will fancy their chances of Leinster glory, while in Munster, Cork are fancied to claim the provincial title once again.
Indeed, the Leesiders won't lack in motivation for the biggest prize of all after seeing their hopes of a sixth successive All-Ireland crown go up in smoke against Tyrone in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.
In what appears to be an open race, last year's beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists Kerry, who finished second in Division 2, will also look to challenge for silverware.
Connacht heavyweights Galway and Mayo can never be discounted, while strong challenges are anticipated from Division 1 table-toppers Monaghan, Donegal and Tyrone, who were beaten All-Ireland finalists last year.
"You look at the results through the League, and Monaghan were flying," reflected Brown. "They finished on 21 points but Laois, who finished on seven, beat them in the semi-final. It just goes to show that it's all about performing on the day.
"Cork will be back focused on regaining their title, don't doubt that for a minute. Kerry have a strong team -- I watched them against Meath. And then you have Tyrone.
"We gave them a good going over in last year's final but we had to work very hard to get our girls right for it. Tactically we had to be right to stop Tyrone.
"I'd put a lot of their League form this year down to -- and we know this as well as anybody -- the mental side of recovering from an All-Ireland final defeat.
"New management went in there as well so I wouldn't be looking at the League and writing off Tyrone at all. They had good enough players to get to an All-Ireland final last year.
"They still have that group and a few more so they'll be there or thereabouts. We proved last year, after being relegated from Division 1, that when the summer came it was a whole new season. You blank out the League and start afresh."