Monday 16 September 2019

'If they win five in a row, you can’t argue with that' - The Throw-In panel look forward to an epic All-Ireland SFC final

Brian Fenton of Dublin in action against Paul Geaney of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 3 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee last February. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Brian Fenton of Dublin in action against Paul Geaney of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 3 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee last February. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

While Sunday may mark a milestone for Dublin and indeed the GAA as a whole should the boys in blue manage to become the first inter-county team in either code to win five All-Irelands in a row, it won’t be the only milestone noted.

Regardless of the result, it will be a special occasion for Irish Independent GAA scribe Martin Breheny, who will be attending his 100th All-Ireland final since first attending the 1971 football final between his native Galway and Offaly as a schoolboy.

With Dublin's win last year against Tyrone his 50th football final and Tipp’s recent win over Kilkenny his 49th involving the small ball, the ton will be brought up on Sunday.

That century of finals has even seen Breheny spend the entire week of the build-up with the 1987 Galway hurlers before their win over Kilkenny gaining access that journalist of today could only dream of.

The experience gained on the way to his centenary means that the much-admired correspondent is better placed than most to rank where this Dublin team ranks in comparison to the last football team to get this close, Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry of the late 70s/early 80s.

And Breheny was happy to share his thoughts on The Throw-In’s All-Ireland final podcast, brought to you in association with Bord Gáis Energy.

"If they win five in a row, you can’t argue with that and all the leagues they've won as well," Breheny said. 

"The one thing is you've got to measure the opposition they're up against now They've had nothing in Leinster whereas Kerry had to play Cork, who were a good team at the time. Micko loved to do the old thing of 'the second-best team in Ireland' and there was no back-door in those days.

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"How do you compare the standard of opposition? It wasn’t great at times either in that Kerry five-in-a-row.

"They beat Roscommon in 1980 who were pretty good at the time. Dublin after '78 were in decline. They beat Offaly in '81 and lost in '82.

"So it's very hard to judge but on balance if they win the five-in-a-row, and even if they don’t, you have to say their achievement is incredible."

A lot of the talk this week revolving around Dublin’s position as 1/5 odds on favourites tag, a price unheard of in clashes between the two great rivals. And with Kerry priced at the opposite end of the scale at 5/1, it’s clear the bookies see nothing less than a Dubin win.

Yet Breheny can recall a couple of occasions during his hundred when a heavily backed Dublin were caught cold by the Kingdom.

The first occurrence pushed the Dubs onto new heights but it was the manner of the second, which essentially finished Kevin Heffernan's first great team, that stands out in the memory. 

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Irish Independent GAA writer Martin Breheny wil be attending his 100th All-Ireland final on Sunday
"There would be two, in 1975 and in 1978," he recalled.

"In '78 in particular when Dublin were going for three-in-a-row and had beaten Kerry in '76 and '77.  I can’t recall the odds but they were pretty odds-on favourites.

"Remember they led by six points to one after a quarter of an hour but only scored three more points while Kerry got 5-9. Certainly, in that ‘78 time, Kerry would have been seen as long odds outsiders.

"You never know. Five-in-a-row is different. They've guarded well against it but there's only a certain amount of guarding you can do about it.

"You never know until the test comes and to a large degree a test hasn’t come yet."

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