It’s hardly news to him but Graham Canty puffs his cheeks out all the same as he considers Dublin’s Championship record since 2010.
The big Bantry man captained Cork to an All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin that year, getting his hands on the Sam Maguire Cup weeks later.
Almost a decade on, Dublin have only lost two more Championship games; to Mayo in 2012 and Donegal in 2014. It’s a record for the ages that reads: Played 56, won 52, drawn 2, lost 2. The expectation is that in two games’ time, Dublin will frank that dominance of the decade by securing a first-ever five in a row of All-Ireland wins.
“It’s a ferocious record,” said Canty. “Brian Fenton hasn’t lost a Championship game at all. That’s a massive record on its own to hold. It’s just the level of performance, it’s massive and a lot of that is down to Jim Gavin and the team around him.
“But also it’s the players because the players’ approach to things has been second to none. Even if something isn’t going right in a game, he has that arsenal on the bench to be able to change things.
I think the game management piece the group has developed is great. It’s not all coming from the line. You see players and they adapt themselves, they’re not looking for direction from the line in how to cope with things.
Cork, meanwhile, are struggling to get back to the top of the hill. In the same timeframe as Dublin have played those 56 Championship games — with the Dubs enjoying a 93% rate — Cork have played 39 games and won 19, a 48% rate of success.
Canty, now retired from club duty and not even sure if he still owns a pair of football boots, has put himself at the forefront of the drive to improve standards, playing a key role in the production of #2024 A Five-Year Plan for Cork Football.
It was published earlier this year, eight years on from Dublin’s Blue Wave document which set out how they planned to move the county forward. The irony with Dublin is while their footballers have exceeded all expectations, many other targets in that plan weren’t reached.
Asked if Cork believe they will meet all of the targets in their document, or if they will be privately happy to settle for a general improvement, Canty gave his own theory on it.
“I think it’s like any strategic plan, it should be reviewed a minimum of every two years,” he said. “The goalposts will move from a five- year plan. I would like that maybe in time Cork would have a short, medium, and long-term plan within the wider strategic plan, so that it’s capturing everything. So long-term, what are your 10 and 15-year goals? What are you developing as a policy in a wider strategy?
“I think It’s always going to be a living breathing document. The core values within it; increasing participation, the enjoyment and skill level at all areas across it, whether it’s schools, clubs, inter-county, I don’t think any of that stuff will change throughout a two, three or five-year cycle.”
Canty acknowledged Cork’s All-Ireland U20 success naturally helps but warned supporters not to expect any immediate spike in senior standards as a result.
“From an U20s point of view, it’s much harder trying to make the transition now,” he said. “Lads are a full year younger than they were when it was U21. So I think it will take that little bit of time. But I’d expect that a few of them will definitely be involved in the panel next year.”
Dublin, in the meantime, are expected to keep doing what they do. They play Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final tomorrow evening and Canty anticipates they will stick to the habit of a decade and win.
“It’s a completely different Dublin team to what we faced in 2010 but what hasn’t changed is their brand of football, they still play complete football, total football,” said Canty.
They love nothing better than a team going toe to toe with them. That’s why the match-up between themselves and Mayo is always so fascinating because it’s two teams that go out to play head to head. They’ll play complete football. It’ll be fast flowing and there’ll be a lot going on and it’ll be a great battle.
Ultimately, Canty expects Dublin to prevail again.
As for Kerry, the old enemy, he can’t call a winner between themselves and Tyrone. “A lot will depend on how defensively solid Tyrone will be against a potentially very explosive Kerry attack,” he said.