‘It's definitely a blow but is it something you can recover from? Absolutely’ – Ciaran Whelan on Dublin’s drop

Umpire Jimmy Galligan, waves a white flag to confirm the last point and win for Monagahan over Dublin at St Tiernach's Park in Clones. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

So despite Dean Rock’s stoppage-time penalty bringing Dublin’s potential great escape to within a kick of a ball, it was Monaghan’s Jack McCarron who swung the decisive boot.

That final free saw McCarron's side safe and left Dessie Farrell’s men wondering what a little more composure at the death might have brought.

It’s a first demotion for the Dubs since 1995 and, despite Dr Pat O'Neill’s team going on to win their 22nd All-Ireland later that season, a combination of poor form and league format changes meant it was 1998 before the Sky Blues saw Division One action again.

One man who came to the fore in that post-1995 rebuild was Ciaran Whelan, but even he had a six-year wait before claiming a provincial title after his 1996 debut.

With no one stepping up to the plate in Leinster, it's unthinkable that a similar drought is on the way. But having experienced those seasons in the lower reaches, Whelan was well placed to discuss the ramifications of Sunday's result on the latest edition of The Throw-In, Independent.ie’s GAA podcast in association with Allianz.

And although the raising of umpire Jimmy Galligan’s white flag brought the curtain down on the current top-flight stay, there’ll be no surrender going into the summer according to the Raheny clubman.

“It's definitely a blow. Is it something that you can recover from? Absolutely,” he said.

“It's not the end of the world, but it's certainly not ideal. If you listen to a lot of the players that have retired in recent years, a few of them spoke, candidly and honestly, about the challenge of National League Division One being more important for them.

“Because they knew going into the Leinster Championship that sometimes they weren't going to get a competitive game and they were cruising through Leinster.

“But if you're in Division Two, and you're on that downward curve, the Leinster Championship becomes more competitive. It's in the league, there's no doubt about it, the top teams (are).

“If you want to be competing for Sam later in the year you do want to have those seven games against top-class opposition to even blood young lads, to see what they're about.

“Whether they're up for it, to develop a bit of character within the team, and that's the downside that Dublin will dip down.”

In truth, Sunday’s result was no more than the Farney men deserved and Dublin’s relegation has really come down to their early season performances rather than yesterday’s display in Clones.

Whatever about losses to the likes of Mayo and Kerry, the Newbridge defeat to Kildare in Round 4 stands out given that a win on that occasion would have been enough to see Dublin safe in the heel of the hunt.

And the six-time Leinster champion believes that it’s the issues at the back that former teammate Farrell and his backroom team will need to focus on prior to their opening provincial tie against Wexford or Offaly on April 30th.

“They can't complain,” Whelan finished.

“Their performance throughout the League was just far too patchy at times. It looked like they were getting a bit of structure back over the last two weeks but that wasn't prevalent in the first half yesterday. Again they looked very, very disjointed, particularly from a defensive perspective.”

“I think they conceded eleven goals in the League and that to me has been where their biggest weakness has been.

“From a forwards perspective, I'd be relatively happy the last couple of weeks. They look like there's a little bit more about them going forward or moving it quicker.

“Okay, Ciaran Kilkenny's had a couple of quiet games, but Cormac Costello has looked lively up front. Sean Bugler's had quite a good league campaign. Con O'Callaghan is hopefully going to come back into that equation.

“So it'd be kind of happy with the progress in their forward play, but it was just defensively that cost them in the end.

“I don't think it's a massive blow but it's not ideal in terms of preparation for Championship being in Division Two.

“So it's going to be interesting, we could be back in Parnell Park for the football games and the hurlers could be in Croke Park next year, who knows!”