Coman Goggins fears easy ride may see Dublin fans ‘disengage'

It’s not today or yesterday but Coman Goggins remembers a time when Dublin players celebrated Leinster semi-final wins by breaking out the boogie bus.

The former Dublin defender was captain of the 2002 team that ended a seven-year barren streak by claiming the provincial title.

Back then, they couldn’t have imagined how one-sided games involving Dublin would ultimately become, with the Sky Blues winning their provincial semi-finals under Jim Gavin by 16, 16, 19, 10, and 31-point margins.

They play Longford in their latest semi-final on Sunday, a side they beat by 27 points in the 2015 quarter-finals.

“We were celebrating semi-final wins back in my time — I think there was a boogie bus that appeared after a semi-final win against Wexford one of the years,” said Goggins. “Success had been hard come by. If you spoke to the likes of Ciaran Whelan, he struggled to beat Meath when he came through in ’96, all the way up to 2002.

Meath had the upper hand on us but you look at it now and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have that competitive edge back in Leinster’. Like, Kildare in the noughties, they used to bring a serious crowd to Croke Park, 60,000 or 70,000 for Leinster semi-finals and finals. You’re just missing that atmosphere and that buzz now.

“The Dublin public, and I hope this doesn’t happen, they maybe disengaged a little bit because it’s so easy for them when they should be lapping it up saying, ‘This is a great time to be a Dubs supporter’, which maybe they didn’t do often enough.”

Goggins, like Whelan, is one of the ‘inbetweeners’ who featured for Dublin between 1996 and 2010 when they failed to win an All-Ireland title, settling for four Leinsters by the time he quit in 2008.

The Ballinteer man reckons that supporters now take provincial titles for granted and that many have even become blase about All-Ireland wins as Gavin’s crew close in on a historic four-in-a-row and a sixth in eight years.

“Even after the All-Ireland finals now you don’t get the same (response from fans),” he said. “In 2011, there was an outpouring of emotion. Last year I guess that was less so. Unless you’re a die-hard football person and really appreciate what the guys are doing then maybe it doesn’t resonate as much.

I would have looked at the Kilkenny team when they were winning All-Irelands and thought, ‘How could a Dublin team ever be that consistent?’ To actually achieve that, everyone should be enjoying it. But a pitch invasion after a Leinster final just seems a million miles away from how the game is at the minute, and where Dublin’s dominance is.

Goggins feels that, in the circumstances, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to hand Longford home advantage for Sunday’s semi-final. He played at centre-back the last time Dublin travelled to Longford in the Championship, in 2006, and they won by just two points.

“I don’t think this Dublin team would mind doing it,” said Goggins. “We struggled with travelling away but I think these guys now cope better with being on the road. Obviously Leinster want to play matches in Croke Park, that’s where you’re going to get a double header and a bigger crowd but for Longford supporters, do they travel with great hope? Probably not.

But by bringing it to Pearse Park all of a sudden you’re asking questions of Dublin travelling and it’s a tighter pitch and a different atmosphere. You’re just throwing other stuff into the mix that challenges the team.

Longford pulled off a big quarter-final win over Meath and actually beat Gavin’s Dublin in the 2016 O’Byrne Cup though Goggins fears for the midlanders this weekend with a Leinster final place at stake.

“You would, you’d fear for any team at Croke Park when they come up against Dublin, particularly in the Leinster championship because Dublin are so used to playing there, the style of play they have, and how they expose teams when given space,” said Goggins.

 

- AIB have extended their 27-year association with the GAA by five years to 2023. The extension covers the All-Ireland club championships, All-Ireland football championship and the camogie club championship.


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