Dublin’s cosiness to HQ gives ammunition to detractors

Dublin’s cosiness to HQ gives ammunition to detractors
Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley celebrates with the Delaney Cup after the Leinster SFC final win over Meath at Croke Park. Picture: Inpho/Ryan Byrne

You might have noticed how most Kerry players, former and current, tend to shy away from damning the perceived advantages enjoyed by Dublin.

You won’t find Kieran Donaghy or Mikey Sheehy going nuclear like former Kildare captain Eamonn Callaghan did on Sunday when he suggested the rest of the Leinster counties should strike at the preferential treatment shown to the capital: “Probably at the stage now where teams should boycott the Leinster championship. 

"It’s a joke. County boards are as much to blame as the GAA for allowing this to happen.”

It might be different if Kerry faced Dublin more often — three long years since the last encounter — but there’s a mutual appreciation society. 

Sheehy — “I take my hat off to Dublin and Jim Gavin and what he has done” — has been where this fabulous group of Dublin players have been. 

Game appreciates game and he will remember the sense of begrudgery that also followed them on their quest for five in a row.

The extent of it was nothing like the early 1980s but it was there. In 1980, Kerry had a bye into the Munster final. 

Roscommon were victorious in four games to reach that year’s All-Ireland final; Kerry only had to win two. 

Pat Spillane has also spoken of how the rule-makers attempted to thwart Kerry’s use of the hand-pass and harked back to it when he felt the recent experimental changes were an attempt to negate Dublin.

Callaghan’s remark was borne of frustration and while calling for a drastic measure he illustrated that the spin Croke Park and the Leinster Council have been attempting to put on Dublin’s utter domination of the province isn’t washing with those at the coalface.

The amount of money generated by the Dublin footballers for the Leinster Council has not been mentioned much in their arguments but why would it be? 

Instead, those in close proximity to the capital are told to get their houses in order like Dublin, which is all well and good until you realise Dublin didn’t have to invest in bricks and mortar like others because of Croke Park, St Clare’s, and the GAA’s National Centre of Excellence in Blanchardstown.

Basically, Dublin has been able to invest more of its own money in people and it has been made all the cheaper by the assistance from external funding. 

It’s not that members aren’t contributing — they certainly are towards the employment of games development officers. 

In Kilmacud Crokes, family membership for two adults and two children is €355. In Cuala, it’s €465. In St Vincent’s, it’s €330. 

In contrast, in Skibbereen’s O’Donovan Rossa, it’s €100. In Killorglin’s Laune Rangers, it’s €70. In Templemore’s JK Brackens, it’s €75. 

Club members in Dublin have been paying for the proliferation of GAA in the county.

Many can’t but it is possible to appreciate this brilliant Dublin team for what they are without becoming obsessed with the financial leg-up the county received. 

Their under-age teams are strong but nothing too formidable to believe the county is in the early stages of becoming an empire. 

As former Dublin midfielder Paul Bealin told this newspaper on Saturday, there is no guarantee this dominance is going to continue deep into the next decade. 

Success, though, begets success and the culture of excellence Gavin has cultivated will endure. Combined with the board’s financial arm, the potency is phenomenal.

Dublin weren’t involved in yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC Round 3 draw but their spectre overshadowed it. 

There remains the live possibility all of their Super 8 opponents will have been relegated this year. 

Roscommon are already confirmed as one and should Cork and Cavan win their respective fourth round qualifiers it will be the All-Ireland semi-final at the earliest that Dublin face a team that share Division One billing next season.

That’s not on Dublin, but the GAA itself and how they backed this ill-advised Super 8 structure. 

However, the lines between Dublin and the upper echelons of the GAA have become so blurred that at times it can be easy to mistake one for the other. 

Depending on how you view it, GAA president John Horan has now had to, or has been, defending the funding provided to Dublin. 

Unfortunately for him, the drum has been so loud that how he brought his own county out of Croke Park in the Leinster SFC quarter-finals and established the Leinster Project have been drowned out.

For all three years in office, former GAA president Nickey Brennan handed over the Liam MacCarthy Cup to fellow Kilkenny men.

Horan could go one better and share the Hogan Stand rostrum with the same man — his work colleague Stephen Cluxton — three times by the time his term finishes. 

What an honour that would be — even if distinguishing such coincidence from cosiness will be difficult.

Can Meath end Leinster final hex?

Andy McEntee
Andy McEntee

It’s 10 years since the Leinster runners-up last made the last eight and to make matters worse for Meath the two teams they beat in the Leinster SFC, Laois and Offaly, have been drawn to face each other this weekend. 

That means their chances of facing a Division 3 team in their fourth-round qualifier have stretched from 13/8 to 8/1.

“I don’t know,” was Andy McEntee’s straight answer when asked can his team recover from the 16-point loss to Dublin.

“We haven’t been in this position before. It’ll be interesting to see how fellas react. 

"We were one game away from the Super 8s last week, we’re one game away from it this week. Ultimately, not a whole pile has changed. 

It will be a fair test of resolve and a fair test of character to come back from a defeat like that.

History is against Meath, though. 

What Dublin leave on the team they vanquish is not a mark but a gash. 

Not since 2009 have Leinster runners-up made the last-eight when Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare recovered from losing to Dublin to beat Wicklow, a Division 4 team, to reach the quarter-finals.

Since then, it’s been a tale of woe for the second best in Leinster — 2010 Louth (lost to Dublin), 2011 Wexford (lost to Limerick), 2012 Meath (lost to Laois), 2013 Meath (lost to Tyrone), 2014 Meath (lost to Armagh), 2015 Westmeath (lost to Fermanagh), 2016 Westmeath (lost to Mayo), 2017 Kildare (lost to Armagh) and 2018 Laois (lost to Monaghan).

Even the end of the six or seven-day turnaround to the fourth round qualifiers back in 2013 has not helped the runners-up in the eastern province. 

Meath need a big break.

Monaghan can return to top table

Malachy O'Rourke
Malachy O'Rourke

Earlier this year, Waterford’s Kevin Moran took aim at those who assumed Michael “Brick” Walsh’s inter-county career concluded in breaking the Championship appearances record as the Déise bowed out of the Munster SHC.

He was right — and we are loathe to consider Monaghan’s early departure from this year’s All-Ireland SFC as the end of the road for the team’s elder statesmen — but Malachy O’Rourke sure did pull a trick by convincing a couple of them to remain on.

That being said, there are other seasoned men who should be sticking around. 

Conor McManus (33 next year) is hardly finished, although the extended break until next year might give him an opportunity to finally address the hip issue he’s had to manage these last few seasons. 

Conor McManus
Conor McManus

Darren Hughes is also 33 in 2020, and he will hardly want to conclude his time in a Monaghan jersey when, because of injury and suspension, his 2019 season never really got going.

For their modest pick, Monaghan’s ability to remain in Division 1 for six consecutive seasons is as rich a legacy from Malachy O’Rourke as the two Ulster titles won in his time in charge. 

The standards he demanded, the ones regularly reached by his players, will have to be retained if Monaghan are to remain a force.

But not only do Monaghan have a deeply committed following, but one of the best- organised counties, and the structures in place should ensure their place at the top table is retained.

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