The first signs of rust on the Dublin machine appeared at Wexford Park last July. Ten months later, with many late nights when it would have been easy to decide to ride off into the sunset and cash in their gold, Dublin’s players showed there was still life in the old dog.
After being relegated to the league, this win was more about sending a message to the rest of the country. It was clear and clear: Dublin is still a contender.
The more experienced players gave the lead – Jonny Cooper, Ciarán Kilkenny, Brian Howard, Dean Rock and of course Brian Fenton. If Fenton was in the US he would be the MVP or maybe even the best player in the world. He is all of these things. In last year’s championship and this year’s league he was mortal, feet of clay, but here business as usual went on. Fenton has his mojo back.
And the other piece of the puzzle came back. Con O’Callaghan was back with the usual goal and it took more than one hand to count your points. Calm returned to the ranks of Dublin.
The rumor mill has been churning since last year. There were many stories about the players not being satisfied with the intensity of the training, that internal discipline had slipped and that many of the older players were dissatisfied. There wasn’t much evidence for that.
Dublin looked fit, hungry and looking highly motivated. They pushed up on Wexford’s kick-out and destroyed them on the long ones. The breaks in midfield often say a lot about a team. Dublin was back to previous levels. They flooded the area with corpses and outnumbered Wexford under the falling ball. No one looked for someone else to do the dirty work.
The other area that demonstrates hunger is tackling and this is where the dubs reappeared. Initially, Wexford held the ball easily, but as the first half progressed, Dublin began chasing the player in possession, using the touchline as their friend. In the past, the two- or three-player dubs have pushed an opposing player towards the touchline and then taken the ball from them. It often resulted in points.
The Dublin defense have had many a rough day throughout the league but it seems a lot of repair work has been done.
Of course you have to bear in mind that Wexford are a Division 4 team, but good teams prepare for all big games in the same way. Last year Dublin limped through the second half of this duel and the pattern remained for all other games.
This time they kept the shoe on the ground and it showed hard running and a high level of skill and fitness. They could have scored a lot of goals and if the bench isn’t as strong as before then it doesn’t matter if James McCarthy and Niall Scully can be brought in. The league hasn’t emerged as a star player, but the old squad that remains will give everyone a race for their money.
There was a time when Tyrone vs Derry was a real rivalry. One that was like Meath and Dublin, Cork and Kerry, or Galway and Mayo. That disappeared about 20 years ago. In fact, it’s been 2006 since Derry last won a league game against Tyrone.
In those distant days, both teams knocked each other out, and even a handshake before the start meant checking the number of fingers afterwards. It’s a lot more civilized now, and it’s going in Tyrone’s favor.
A little blood and guts alone might not win games, but that’s the least Derry needs to bring today. They’re playing the All Ireland Champion on their own patch, so they’re in for quite a bit of disruption. If played normally Tyrone will almost certainly win, they have a larger number of proven players like Darren McCurry, Darragh Canavan, Conor Meyler and the two midfielders Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy who seem to have improved from last year.
Then there’s Niall Morgan, who’s a goaltender, utility back, and long-distance freetaker. Tyrone is a stunner again.
I’ve seen Derry twice this year and some highlights too. They were the better team against Roscommon for a long time, but a draw in that game cost them promotion. Then I saw her in Navan vs Meath when it turned out to be a dead gum. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Derry back then, even if they have some quality at the back with Brendan Rogers and Chrissy McKaigue. Conor Glass is a great midfielder and Shane McGuigan has class.
Fill in all the other moving parts and they don’t have a panel to match Tyrone, although losing a number of fringe players can come back later to bite Tyrone. The competition in training is just as important as the jury on match day.
Tyrone was also given another boost when Conor McKenna lifted his one-match ban. He brought a huge boost in energy and goalscoring when he came on as a substitute against Fermanagh, but the discipline debacle is hugely frustrating. I’ve read judgments in some recent cases, and some of them now resemble a Supreme Court appeal.
The GAA should never be concerned with finding errors in the reports of arbitrators or the administration of justice, no matter how erroneous they may be at times. It takes a culture shift to take responsibility when it arises. Or better yet, instead of trying to undermine the system, county officials have actually violently spoken out in support. And pigs could fly.
Anyway, what we want today is a thoroughbred performance from Derry. And I mean full-blooded, where they always press straight at Tyrone instead of sitting back in their 45 and hoping for the best. Fortune favors the brave. I don’t think Derry will adopt that approach and that is the rock they will perish on.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/born-again-dublin-show-the-old-dog-can-still-bite-41604247.html Born again Dubliners show that the old dog can still bite