Friday 17 January 2020

Game dying a death as Dublin dominate

Weird Wide World of Sport

Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone is tackled by Con O’Callaghan of Dublin during the All-Ireland final
Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone is tackled by Con O’Callaghan of Dublin during the All-Ireland final

Dave Devereux

So, that went pretty much along expected lines as, despite a tardy start, Dublin cruised to a comfortable enough victory over Tyrone to land their fourth All-Ireland crown in a row.

With nearly men Mayo long-since gone from this season's race, sadly we weren't treated to the nail-biting finale that we needed this year more than ever.

There's no doubting that the Boys in Blue are a phenomenal outfit, a juggernaut that, once it gets rolling, is nigh on impossible to stop, but we can't allow the supreme talent of the Dubs to paper over the cracks of what has been a truly below-par championship.

To their credit, Dublin are one of the few teams that are not almost impossible to watch, when they're not dishing out an unmerciful drubbing to some sorry cannon-fodder that is.

Along with maybe Mayo, Kildare and Kerry and a few other lesser lights, they play the game how it was intended and thankfully Tyrone have started to adopt a more expansive approach in recent weeks instead of continually trying to suck the lifeblood out of the game.

The northerners' more positive approach looked to be paying dividends as they impressively carved out a 0-5 to 0-1 lead on Sunday, but once Dublin found their groove they showed all the hallmarks of champions to simply put their opponents away in the blink of an eye.

Of course, the dominance of Dublin is a huge problem in itself.

It's hard to get the masses excited when the outcome is glaringly clear before a ball is even kicked, and unfortunately it looks like that certainty when we gaze into our crystal balls will remain for a number seasons to come.

Like Brian Cody in Kilkenny's hey-day, Jim Gavin has been able to drip-feed new blood into the side to replace the old guard, a calculated strengthening rather than weakening of the squad.

Some will argue that it's all cyclical and Dublin's reign, like Kilkenny's in hurling and the great Kerry teams that came before them in Gaelic football, will come to a shuddering halt.

You could put population forward as the main argument for Dublin's dominance and there's no doubting with children in the capital trying to emulate the current crop of warriors, it's something that could have more and more of an impact in years to come.

Those who believe everything is rosy in the garden will point to Kilkenny's success in hurling, Kerry's past dominance of the big ball game, or the All Blacks' position at the top of the tree in rugby.

However, those places are meccas for their chosen sport, where their heroes will always be spoken about in reverential tones and, in the main, they put all their eggs in one basket.

You could point to the Kerry conveyor belt of all-conquering Minor teams as a reason for hope of a more competitive championship in the not too distant future, but reaping the prizes at under-age grades doesn't always equate to success at adult level.

Only a handful of players might continue their progression, when the difficulty of striking a college or work/sport balance can mean top talent can fall through the cracks.

Again that's where Dublin have a huge advantage, the crux of the matter - money.

The blue machine is professional in everything but name and when there's a massive financial beast behind you, it's much, much easier to juggle whatever life throws at you.

Financial backing allows good players to develop into great players and that's what we're seeing now as the metropolitans have become masters of their art.

You could compare Dublin to Manchester City and the meticulous Jim Gavin to Pep Guardiola. That would be wide of the mark though, because at least some of the other franchises in the Premier League have the financial clout to put it up to those particular boys in blue.

Unlike the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United, the counties in Ireland outside of the capital don't have that luxury.

A more accurate comparison would be Celtic in Scotland, where no other side has a prayer of breaking their stranglehold on their domestic league in the foreseeable future, unless some sugar daddy arrives waving wads of cash.

This is by no means sour grapes on behalf of the other beleaguered counties, but while money may not always guarantee success, it sure as hell goes a long way to putting the correct structures in place for the best possible outcomes.

While it's only natural for Dublin supporters to be lapping up their wonderful winning run, particularly after they suffered far too many years in the doldrums, it's only a matter of time before they too become weary of the predictability of it all.

Some already have, and have voted with their feet as the drop off in attendances clearly demonstrates. The Dublin team may have millions behind them, but the average Joe Soap doesn't want to part with their hard-earned cash to watch one-sided maulings, that are over before they even begin.

Gaelic football is at a crossroads and something radical needs to be done before it's too late; somehow the influx of cash needs to be spread more evenly.

Obviously that aim will be impossible to be achieved through sponsorship, given that the Dublin brand is something that big businesses would want to be associated with ahead of other counties, so the hierarchy in the G.A.A. itself will have to step up to the mark and address the problem.

How many All-Irelands will Dublin have to win in a row before some attempt is made to level the playing field? Six, seven, maybe even eight?

It might be hailed as a super eight for Dublin, but not for a game that is dying a slow death.

Wexford People

Most Read