herald

Sunday 22 April 2018

New Dublin SFC is a positive step but no instant panacea

Roche’s Point

Tomás Quinn
Tomás Quinn

Thursday night in Parnell Park showcased the two sides of the Dublin senior football championship, even in its remodelled format. It proved that, even by halving the number of senior clubs to 16, you are still left with a world of 'haves' and 'have-nots'; of serial contenders and distant pretenders.

In the opening match of this year's competition, St Vincent's cruised to victory by 5-18 to 1-9 - with Tomás Quinn impressing with 2-2 - over a game but outclassed Skerries Harps. Do the maths: that's a 21-point differential.

Vincent's and Skerries may be in the same round-robin group, but they are playing in two different championships. For the holders, nothing less than retaining their crown will constitute success. For Harps, it's all about self-respect and, even against opponents missing a certain Diarmuid Connolly, damage-limitation.

The second Thursday night clash was in the same group; yet the contrast could not have been starker. Na Fianna and Lucan Sarsfields got stuck into each other - on and occasionally off the ball - in a blood-and-thunder fashion that made you wonder was this winner-takes-all.

Ambush

Diarmuid Connolly
Diarmuid Connolly

But in reality it was: with two teams qualifying from each group, the losers here were sure to be left facing a long-odds game of catch-up.

As it was, despite trailing by a point entering the last 10 minutes, Na Fianna stormed to a five-point victory via two late goals.

Thursday's results - and what followed over the rest of the weekend - provided an intriguing early snapshot of the new Dublin SFC.

Of the eight Senior 1 matches played, the combined margin of victory was 80 points. That's an average of 10 per game, albeit slightly skewed by the Vincent's result and Castleknock's 16-point cruise past Clontarf. Four of the eight yielded double-digit wins - for Vins, Castleknock, St Jude's and St Sylvester's.

So much for banishing the old lopsided trend? Perhaps, but it's worth stressing that (a) the new format could take several years to bed in and produce a top tier that lives up to its best-16 billing; (b) there is no such thing as a championship of equals (Tyrone were 'contenders' last August until they ran into the Dublin juggernaut); and (c) it's still a sizeable improvement on last season.

You can't ignore the results last year that reinforced the need for radical reform: Kilmacud walloped Erin's Isle by 10-12 to 0-7 (35 points); Ballymun won their first two outings by a cumulative 60 points (5-17 to 2-6 over St Pat's of Palmerstown, 8-18 to 0-2 over St Mary's of Saggart).

St Mary's had previously enjoyed an eight-point win over Whitehall Colmcille - who then lost their SFC tournament clash with Ballyboden St Enda's by (this is not a misprint) 1-15 to 0-0.

Whitehall have now found their level, in Senior 2, where their marquee men (Cormac Costello and county hurler Eoghan O'Donnell) inspired them to a one-point weekend victory over St Maur's.

A better place for Whitehall to rebuild? Undoubtedly.

Not everyone agreed with the county board's SFC revamp - hence the ultimately failed DRA challenge from Thomas Davis. Back in February, a club spokesperson explained that while they agreed with "the principle", they would "prefer to lose our status on the field of play rather than the boardroom".

And maybe the five-year results cycle used to grade Senior 1 was an imperfect science.

But if Thomas Davis merit a place at the top table (and their 4-16 to 1-9 win over St Peregrine's was a promising second tier start) hopefully they'll get a chance to prove it soon.

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