Runaway provincial juggernauts

What do Dublin and Mayo have in common apart from a rivalry that is growing with each game that passes?

Runaway provincial juggernauts

This Sunday, each county is gunning for their 10th consecutive win in their respective province; Dublin having started their run against their forthcoming opponents Laois in June 2011 while Mayo square up to Roscommon three years on from the start of their dominance with that shaky extra-time win in Ruislip.

Under James Horan, Mayo have yet to slip in Connacht and boast an average winning margin of over 11 points across their nine games. Their recent landslide win over New York last month is included in those stats but take it out and the average of 10 points is still impressive.

In that same three-season time-span, Dublin have been beating teams to the tune of slightly over eight points a game. Six of Dublin’s nine victories came under Pat Gilroy but the gap between them and the rest of Leinster widened since Jim Gavin took over. Their average winning margin was 13 points compared to 5.8 over 2011 and ’12.

The distance between Mayo and the peloton in Connacht may have reached its zenith last year when they beat Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim by a combined 45 points. However, there are strong indications on the back of their Division 1 title retention that Dublin may better that over the coming months.

It certainly doesn’t make good reading for Laois that no team who have faced Dublin in their last three Leinster quarter-finals have been closer than eight points. Since then, they disposed of Louth and Westmeath by 16 points on each occasion.

So bad was it last year for then Westmeath boss Pat Flanagan that he more or less conceded his team had come to Croke Park to make up the numbers.

Neither Dublin or Mayo are yet halfway towards emulating the eight-in-a-rows attained by the great Cavan and Kerry teams in the last century. However, there are similarities between Dublin, aiming for a ninth Leinster title in 10 years, Cavan, who won 17 Ulsters in 19 years and Kerry, winners of Munster SFCs in 10 of 11 years (1975-86). Between 1929 and ’42, the Kingdom were provincial victors on 12 of 13 occasions.

In roughly the same timeframe World War II took place between 1939 and ’45, Cavan went a staggering 23 games without loss — 25 if you include their two wins in ’46 before losing to Antrim in the final.

Kerry’s run under Mick O’Dwyer comprised 20 games unbeaten in Munster from 1975 to their semi-final win over Tipperary in 1983. That included two draws with Cork.

The modern day Dublin and Mayo teams are, though, edging closer to the best record this side of the millennium set by Dublin under Paul Caffrey and Gilroy between 2005 and 2009. Including the Leinster quarter-final win over Wexford in 2010, Dublin won 17 games on the trot.

The Leinster final win over Kildare in 2009 marked the third time Dublin claimed the provincial crown. But even at that they are behind Kerry and Cavan in the all-time roll of honour. Kerry have three five-in-a-rows to add to their six, seven and eight feats.

Provincial dominance invariably says as much about the team who’s winning as those who are losing. This run hasn’t yet and may never translate to All-Ireland success for Mayo but then it didn’t for Dublin either in the ’00s. Yet it remains the shortest distance to the business end of the championship.

As coming through Connacht has become almost a ritual of Mayo’s under Horan, so too has been their knack of knocking out the previous year’s All-Ireland champions out, doing it to Cork, Dublin and Donegal.

That could be a consideration for September but this weekend Dublin and Mayo should do what they have been doing best these last three years. That is, conquering their provinces.

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