Having made a mockery of the Leinster Championship again, Dublin look well placed to make history and complete their ‘drive for five’. The Boys in Blue beat Louth, Kildare and Meath by a combined total of 47 points, conceding just 25 points in the process, but far sterner tests lie in wait.
Stats can be misleading, and in reality, Dublin should have been made to work a lot harder by both Kildare and Meath. Leading both by just four points at half time, Dublin benefitted from a woeful lack of composure from their two closest rivals in the province.
Against Kildare, Dublin coughed up a plethora of goal chances that a better team would have converted and the Lilywhites realistically should have finished a lot closer to the nine-time Leinster champions.
Similarly in the Leinster final, Meath had kicked 12 wides by the 50th minute when they only trailed by six points. If they had even managed to covert three of those points, we would have had a game heading down the final straight.
Instead, Dublin quickly pulled eight points clear and, with no reasonable chance of coming back, the Meath heads dropped. Dublin do not relent like other teams and punished the drop off mercilessly, giving the scoreline an unfair reflection.
With more than a few chinks in their armour, Dublin are beatable and here are the three teams we think are capable of stopping history in its tracks.
If there is one thing Kerry don’t want, it’s Dublin succeeding where they failed. It would be yet another major blow in a rivalry that they had unequivocally dominated until the 2011 All Ireland final and it would be a long time before they forget about it.
Kerry’s motivation to stop Dublin is stronger than anyone’s, but they are also arguably the best equipped to do it. A forward-line consisting of Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien, Sean O’Shea and David Clifford should strike fear into the hearts of every defence in the country, including Dublin’s. If the four-time All Ireland champions were to cough up the same goal chances they allowed Kildare, they would be punished far more clinically and severely.
Kerry will always be a match for Dublin, and even in 2016 when Dublin went into their All Ireland semi-final as overwhelming favourites, Kerry ran amok in a first-half scoring spree and came within moments of knocking the defending champions out.
Five minor All Ireland’s in a row has to pay a dividend sooner rather than later and the Kingdom faithful will be hoping it will do so before the decade is out.
The major cause for concern is Kerry’s defence. It looked porous in the league final against Mayo when they imploded in the final quarter to miss out on a second league crown in three years. Those problems surfaced again against Cork on Saturday and it is something that needs addressing ahead of the Super 8s because Dublin boast an even more potent attack than the Kingdom and would do irreparable damage to Kerry’s challenge.
Fix those issues, however, and Kerry are by far the best placed team to dethrone Dublin and finally arrest their momentum in the most prestigious of football rivalries.
Donegal’s impressive 2019 continued on Sunday with an accomplished display against Cavan in the Ulster final. They have been making steady progress under Declan Bonner, winning back to back Ulster titles for the first since the Jim McGuinness era.
They are much changed from that era now too and the farce against Dublin in 2011 is a distant memory. Back then, they relied on stifling the opposition by funnelling 50 per cent of the county behind the ball, now they boast a dynamic forward-line, capable of inflicting real damage.
Jamie Brennan and Paddy McBrearty, absent from last year’s clash with Dublin through injury, are absolutely lethal, while Michael Murphy has been the county’s talisman throughout the 2010s. In Ryan McHugh, they have one of the most gifted wing-backs in the country who adds another dimension to a deadly forward line.
Donegal have also been a thorn in Dublin’s side throughout the 2010s, famously beating them in 2014 and running them close in 2016 and 2018. Something about the Ulster champions seems to unnerve Dublin, and they have a habit of getting players sent off against them.
Diarmuid Connolly has seen red twice against them since that meeting in 2011, while Eoghan O’Gara was also given his marching orders in 2016 as Dublin finished with 13 men. Admittedly those are two players who are no longer integral to the Dublin panel, but there are plenty of other Dublin players who are easily wound up.
Dublin have won their last two games against Donegal since 2014’s ambush, but have been far from convincing on both occasions. With the most ruthless attack than they’ve ever had, Donegal are well placed to topple the men from the capital at the third time of asking this year.
Theoretically, Mayo shouldn’t be much of a concern for Dublin. Since winning the league final the Westerners have underwhelmed spectacularly, losing to Roscommon at home before stuttering past Down in the qualifiers.
Smart money would be on them exiting the championship before the Super 8’s for the second year in a row as there is a real feeling that this team has reached the end of the road.
However, if Mayo can hang in until the latter stages of the Championship, they will be one team Dublin will want to avoid. Alright, Dublin’s record against Mayo under Jim Gavin is impeccable and they haven’t lost a game in league or championship against them, but no team gets under Dublin’s skin like Mayo.
They seem to raise their game ten-fold when they meet Dublin in the championship and are capable of stopping the drive for five if they get the chance. Despite losing to the likes of Kildare and Roscommon and faltering against Down, there is no chance of Mayo rolling over against Dublin.
Mayo’s motive is two-pronged; winning a first All Ireland since 1951 would be made all the sweeter if they could finally get one up on Dublin along the way and you can be guaranteed that if the two meet, Mayo will be as fired up as they have ever been against the Dubs.
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