Part of the deal with being inducted into the GAA Museum’s Hall of Fame is a sit-down interview with media.
Colm O’Rourke and Larry Tompkins, two of the six inductees for 2019, offered their thoughts earlier this week about the future of football and, specifically, Dublin’s domination.
“I think they’ll do six-in-a-row next year because they are supremely motivated,” maintained O’Rourke.
“The best part of the team is nearly the youngest part now when you look at Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Jack McCaffrey, Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny, those fellas are not going anywhere.”
A few minutes later, Cork legend Tompkins sat into the same chair O’Rourke had just vacated and revealed an entirely different outlook, one that will give neutrals much more hope.
“You’d just be wondering if those legs are getting a little bit weary, are the minds getting a bit more tired?” said Tompkins of Dublin.
“Even though if you look at their age they mightn’t be perceived to have gone over the top age-wise, but maybe do they just need that break? I just think next year might be a difficult year for them.”
The obvious next question is who might possibly catch them? Kerry is the logical answer, in light of Dublin needing 140 minutes of All-Ireland final action to get rid of them, but could Cork be the dark horse of 2020? They were the only county, after all, that reached the magical 20-point mark against Dublin in this year’s championship, shooting 1-17 in the Super 8s. Tompkins isn’t about to suggest a red invasion but the former Cork manager and All-Ireland winning captain is optimistic about where they’re headed.
“I would have been critical of Cork in the last year, year and a half,” acknowledged Tompkins. “They went into the Munster final with nothing to lose and I was very impressed with them that day. I thought their movement was much better, their possession of the ball, their kicking, everything, they seemed to have come on so much.
“I watched them hammer Laois in Thurles and was there in Croke Park to see them playing Dublin. I said to myself, ‘Okay, this will be a test to see are they in awe of the big stage?’
“With 64 minutes gone they were only a few points behind Dublin. I’m not saying they would have beaten them but they conceded three goals in the last few minutes, two of them were probably the goalie’s fault.
“They were three goals that could have been not conceded. So I came out of Croke Park thinking, ‘Cork have the ability to go somewhere here’. They had a lot of players that people wouldn’t even know of their names, like young O’Donovan at wing-back. You had White, the Clancys, Flahive in the corner, young O’Hanlon at midfield.”
Yet any conversation about Cork potentially going deep into the 2020 Championship has to carry one crucial rider; they could also end up playing Tier 2 football.
Presuming the proposal to adopt a new layer in the Championship is passed next month, Cork, by virtue of being demoted to Division 3, could end up in a B championship if they don’t make their provincial final.
“I would be in favour of a Tier 2 competition,” said Tompkins, “Look, let’s be honest, Cork shouldn’t be in a Tier 2 competition. But you do have to have a Tier 2 competition and you have to give it a profile and make it special. Do you play the final of the second tier in Croke Park before the All-Ireland final? Do you have a trip for the winners? Do you have an All-Stars selection for the second tier?
“How do you give life to the likes of Wicklow and Carlow and these teams. How do you give life to those players to get out there and train? Is this a way of trying to promote that? I think it has to be.”