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Thursday 16 August 2018

Dublin were not victims of 'hype'

IN the aftermath of their six-point defeat to Donegal, a number of accusations were leveled at Jim Gavin's Dublin side, ranging from how their downfall came from 'believing their own hype' to how supporters' frustrations had seeped onto the field and added to the malaise that had set in on the field.

These were cheap shots, given that the 'hype' that surrounded the Dubs was in the main externally driven and I know was not entertained within the four walls of Dublin's team meetings or training sessions.

Sure their performances up until their semi-final loss to Donegal were breathtakingly powerful, but the numerous column inches about Dublin's perceived future dominance and that old chestnut of carving the city in two to help restrict this progress, merely raised Dublin to a loftier height from where they suffered their fall.

DEVELOPMENT

As someone who has been involved with a Dublin development squad for the last four years I can tell you that the biggest problem we face in the capital is how the limited number of talented guys who progress through the underage squads can be retained and developed against the vast array of other team sports readily available through schools and local clubs.

Despite the large number of GAA clubs and children playing Gaelic football the reality is that the better guys at this age are hot property for team managers in a number of other codes, and trying to create a learning environment that encourages an impressionable teen to devote himself solely to football with Dublin can be a difficult task to get right.

However, there were accusations levelled at the Dubs that require a more thorough look, namely that their untested saunter to their last-four meeting with the Ulster champions left them badly exposed when Donegal turned up the heat.

You could argue that there is an element of truth to this.

In securing back-to-back national football league titles, Dublin were forced to battle for points, securing a late draw against Mayo, earning two priceless away points in Tyrone, and producing a quiet remarkable second-half performance against Cork in their semi-final meeting.

The fact that Dublin failed to meet another Division 1 team since beating Derry in NFL decider on April 27 is a clear example of a lack of exposure to one of the top teams, and could certainly be viewed as having left them ill prepared for what Donegal brought to the table last Sunday week.

But then a quick glance over the championship proper identifies that this lack of competitive action is not only a problem for Dublin, but is a problem for all counties, and is perhaps the crux of the problem for the powerbrokers in headquarters in selling their games earlier in the summer, merely backing up why most observers believe the championship really doesn't get going until the Bank Holiday weekend in August.

Of the 29 provincial championship matches played this year, one, yes that's right only one, involved two teams from the top flight of the national football league, Kerry v Cork in the Munster final.

Mayo, Donegal and Dublin all beat teams from outside the top division to secure provincial glory, albeit that by the time Jim McGuinness' men exacted revenge for their Division 2 final defeat on Monaghan, both counties had already secured top flight football for the 2015 season.

The qualifiers, introduced to help weaker counties get additional championship exposure, served their purposes again this year and it should therefore come as no major surprise that in the 24 games played, not one featured a match between teams from the top flight.

While this could be viewed as a success for the GAA, in that the lower placed teams across the leagues are getting a second bite at the cherry in games that are potentially winnable, from a marketing and exposure point of view the fixtures aren't going to generate big gates or massive TV viewing figures.

APATHY

One all Division 1 clash in 53 championship matches reflects why an air of apathy exists for almost three months, and it's only from August when the last seven games of the season offer up matches between teams from the top tier, one quarter-final and one semi-final this year, that the public's imagination is secured.

While hardly a cataclysmic shift, it does represent a significant move towards higher intensity games, and when you factor into the mix that both Donegal and Monaghan will ply their trade in top tier next year, it effectively meant that you had six teams who will play in Division 1 in 2015 competing for All-Ireland glory from the quarter-final stages.

What the numbers point to is that a magnifying glass needs to be aimed at the overall championship structure, where the discussion shouldn't be so short sighted as to focus on Dublin's lack of competitive games, but rather the problem that abounds for all teams competing for All-Ireland glory, and until this review takes place the championship will always remain a late bloomer.

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