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Thursday 8 December 2016

Paul Curran: Facile victory raises questions over the Championship format

Jack McCaffrey, Dublin, in action against Dessie Reynolds, Longford. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Quarter-Final, Dublin v Longford. Croke Park, Dublin
Jack McCaffrey, Dublin, in action against Dessie Reynolds, Longford. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Quarter-Final, Dublin v Longford. Croke Park, Dublin

DUBLIN entered the frame yesterday and reaffirmed their credentials as favourites for this year's Championship with an all too easy 27-point, no nonsense victory (4-25 to 0-10) against Longford.

This was always going to be a relatively easy assignment and the outcome was decided well before the final whistle as Dublin created scores at their ease and operated with such freedom and without pressure that they could have won by even more with both Alan Brogan and Paddy Andrews missing late goal opportunities.

The bottom line is that there is a massive gulf between the two counties and the reality is that there are seven other counties in the province in the same situation as Longford who just cannot compete with these current Dubs.

That situation is unlikely to change anytime soon so in the interest of fairness and competition there should be a common sense approach to looking at the provincial championships in their present format and realise that change is required.

I wrote on this subject last week and over the coming weeks we will witness more one-sided games until we eventually get to the August weekend when the interest levels jump and the games become more competitive and ultimately more enjoyable to watch.

It isn't the fault of Dublin and they must carry on as they do in a professional manner and get these 'warm up' games out of the way.

I don't want to be knocking the likes of Longford because I know how hard their management and players work but the reality is that they are out of their depth.

We are the only organisation that I know of that has a knockout competition (with a back door) as its main competition and it is this traditional format that has kept Kerry and Dublin near the top and Longford and Carlow and a lot more teams close to the bottom.

Longford heads are very down this morning and they will need to regroup quickly if they are to get a championship victory in the qualifiers.

That won't be easy but a home game against similar standard opposition would give them a good chance of winning a Championship game.

Jim Gavin will be happy enough with his team's performance yesterday and how they both created and executed their scoring chances, this despite the fact that they had to play without some key players in defence. James McCarthy, Cian O'Sullivan and Rory O'Carroll.

Their absence gave others the opportunity to impress and David Byrne, John Small and Brian Fenton did themselves no harm.

Dublin will face a serious step up in class against the winners of the Kildare v Laois quarter-final but overall it was a decent start to what could be another successful campaign.

I believe that this is a two-horse race between Dublin and defending champions Kerry but Donegal are the other county who will have a big say in the destination of the Sam Maguire, they have the experience required and have a lot of very good footballers and will take beating.

Kerry are masters at playing things down during the season and some people are often conned by their cuteness.

Their victory last year was typical Kerry and I for one am not falling for it this year.

Dublin are in good shape and are determined as ever this year.

The recent league success came without having to extend themselves too much and with young players given valuable game time.

Fenton and Small are two players who will have benefited from the cut and trust of division one football and both players will play a lot of championship football this summer.

Fenton impressed yesterday with his athleticism, hard-working attitude and vision in possession. He is ideally suited to midfield and can establish himself in the starting line-up which will give Jim Gavin the option of moving Cian O'Sullivan into the back line.

Small is a traditional centre-back who has all the attributes to make that position his own over the coming years.

I worked with 'Smally' for four years with Ballymun Kickhams and know that the step up won't phase him one bit.

Along with Small and Fenton I hope to see more or Cormac Costello over the coming months.

He is a terrific player and needs to play his way into the team and stay there. We haven't seen enough from him over the last 18 months but he is certainly one that could have a huge year ahead.

I like Dublin's chances this year. I also think Kerry are fully focused on keeping the trophy for another season.

It is hard to see any other team other than Donegal stopping their march to September's final.

Nothing is certain of course in sport and hunger will play its part when we get down to the nitty gritty.

For the moment the Dubs are over he first hurdle and looking hungry for further success.

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