All Things Must Pass As Mighty Dubs Felled The Big Picture

All Things Must Pass As Mighty Dubs Felled

It had to end sometime. There will be no five-in-a-row. Kerry are the Allianz Leagues champions for 2017 as Dublin’s run of 36 games unbeaten, the longest in GAA football history, is over. So where now for Jim Gavin’s side?

It shows just how fickle sport can be, how narrow the gap is between success and failure. Small margins! Just over a week ago, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side needed a result in their final pool match to avoid potential relegation to Division 2. Seven days later and they are on top of the world after beating the greatest team of the modern era (and possibly any other era too) in a thriller at Croke Park. Not even a Paul Mannion goal eight minutes from the end was enough to save the mighty Dubs from a 0-20 to 1-16 defeat as Kerry secured their 20th league title.

There had been some talk that this might be Fitzmaurice’s last season in charge, that the powers that be in the Kingdom might be tempted to look elsewhere after what looked like another indifferent campaign where they had looked well off the pace for long spells and were beaten twice on their own patch. But that all seems a long time ago now!


It was also ironic that in a week where most of the talk had been about the retirement of Kerry legend and five-time All-Ireland winner Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper that the county he served so well for so long should spring a surprise without him. Perhaps it proves that no-one is irreplaceable? While Dublin may be the finest team of the era, Cooper is undoubtedly its greatest player, a true footballer in every sense of the word, full of vision, guts and class (despite what Joe Brolly might think!). He will be sorely missed on the inter-county stage, but at least Dr Crokes supporters will get to see him in their colours for a while longer yet.

There is no doubt that Kerry deserved their success last Sunday. The game turned on several key moments, but undoubtedly Dublin manager Jim Gavin will look back at the third quarter where his side failed to register a single score as Kerry posted six points without reply. It turned a one-point half-time deficit into a healthy five-point lead as the incumbent champions simply floundered. They eventually got going but they had left themselves with too much to do and Kerry continued to pick off their scores as the clock ran down. It was a cruel twist of fate that the result should rest on Dean Rock’s long distance free attempt in the dying seconds. The failure of the team to produce on the day came down to one man and one kick of the ball. It was tough on Rock as his effort came back off the upright, but top level sport is rarely kind in situations like that. Small margins indeed!

Where now?

It was interesting to see the response to Dublin’s defeat on social media immediately after the final whistle. Many lamented their passing saying that they ‘were’ a great side. They lose their first game in over two years and suddenly there are epitaphs everywhere. Let’s not be so hasty – this Dublin outfit is going nowhere. They will still be around come June when the provincial championships start and will more than likely be around at the business end of the championship in September. Indeed, it could be argued that the shackles brought on by trying to extend the unbeaten run are gone at last and that Dublin will play with an abandon that we haven’t seen in quite a while which is possibly not what their rivals wanted to hear.


Gavin will learn the lessons of Sunday’s defeat – he is too smart and too successful to do otherwise. He blamed himself in the aftermath, citing poor team selection. He wondered if he had started the right personnel and brought the right players in during the game. They trained well during the week, he said, but there is no doubt that they lacked their characteristic desire and energy as they encountered a Kerry team who just seemed to want it more on the day.

The Dublin forwards got no change out of the Kerry backs and were dominated in midfield, with David Moran putting in a superb man-of-the-match performance for the Kingdom. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was the lack of accuracy from Dublin as they surrendered possession time and again with poor passes into the forward and half-forward line. Gavin alluded to that in his post-match analysis and it is certainly something for them to work on ahead of their Leinster SFC opener against either Carlow or Wexford on June 3rd.

Whatever about Dublin and their fans, everyone else will have been pleased to see them beaten at last. Two years is a long time and the aura of invincibility that was slowly building up around them is gone. It sets us up nicely for the championship as we look forward to an exciting summer!


Roll of honour

There has been some great football played in the Allianz Leagues this season, with perhaps the best game yet saved for the final. But it’s not all about the top tier as the competition was just as intense across the other divisions which provided both joy and heartbreak in equal measure. Here’s how it all panned out in the end: Kerry are the champions, with Roscommon and Cavan relegated to Division 2. They will be replaced by Kildare and Galway, with the Tribesmen coming up as champions following their 0-18 t0 0-16 victory over the Lilywhites in the Division 2 final.

Tipperary, the surprise package of the championship last year as they made it all the way to the semi-finals, are the Division 3 champions after beating Louth 3-19 to 0-19 in the final on Saturday. Both sides are promoted and will replace Fermanagh and Derry who are relegated from the second tier. Meanwhile, Laois and Antrim will be plying their trade in Division 4 next season, with Westmeath and Wexford moving in the other direction. The Lake County are promoted as champions after comprehensively defeating the Model men by 2-24 to 2-11 in the divisional final on Saturday afternoon.

Hurling

With the football all done and dusted, it’s back to the small ball this weekend as Tipperary take on Wexford at Nowlan Park and Limerick face Galway at the Gaelic Grounds for a place in the Allianz Leagues final on Sunday week.


Tipperary are probably favourites to win the competition. They are the reigning All-Ireland champions and the only Division 1A side left in the tournament. Their injury time loss to Cork at Pairc Ui Rinn in the final round of pool games was their first defeat in almost a year. But they will be wary of Davy Fitzgerald’s resurgent Wexford side who stormed to promotion from Division 1B with some inspired displays against much-fancied opposition. Tipp have class all over the pitch and should have enough to get themselves to the final, but they are likely to face a stern examination from Wexford who were more than value for their victory over Kilkenny at the same venue a fortnight ago.

There is no doubt that the Yellowbellies have made huge progress this season and have achieved far more than even their most fervent supporters might have dared to hope for – and it may not be over yet. Whatever happens on Sunday, the 2017 Leinster SHC looks set to be more interesting than it has in years!

The other semi-final sees Limerick entertain Galway at the Gaelic Grounds in a replay of their final pool match which the visitors won by a single point. This one promises to be just as close as both sides enjoyed fine quarter-final wins. Limerick travelled to Pairc Ui Rinn and beat Cork 1-20 to 1-18, while Galway saw off Waterford 2-22 to 2-19 at Pearse Stadium. These two are sleeping giants of the game – Galway are looking for their first silverware since their league title in 2010, while Limerick’s last notable achievement was winning the Munster SHC crown back in 2013. Could 2017 be their year?

Images: INPHO

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