| 16.1°C Dublin

Numbers add up to more Dublin success

Close

Mick Lawlor in action for Laois Photo: Sportsfile

Mick Lawlor in action for Laois Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Mick Lawlor in action for Laois Photo: Sportsfile

Mick Lawlor can't recall who said it but it struck a chord. What would happen if Dublin got fully organised?

Well now we know.

You could call it a simple case of arithmetic. Dublin has 1.3 million residents. Laois is home to 80,000.

On that admittedly crude barometer, how can midland minnows swim with the sharks? It might happen once in a blue moon ... or, in the case of Lawlor and his history-making teammates, it actually did happen in 2003.

That summer Laois captured their first Leinster SFC title in 57 years, Mick O'Dwyer's heroes winning a final thriller against Kildare. Yet their semi-final ambush of holders Dublin sticks even longer in the memory.

"The guys with the big tradition - to beat them in Croke Park, it's as good as winning a Leinster really. It's something people remember for years to come," says Lawlor, their then-veteran centre-forward.

Ebullience

They won by 0-16 to 0-14, Laois's ebullience summed up by a monster Pauric Clancy point. Yet they had to ride their first half luck: "Fergal Byron pulled off two or three great saves," says Lawlor. "If they had gone in, it could have been a different outcome."

Thirteen years on, Laois are preparing for another joust with the Dubs. The setting is different: Nowlan Park next Saturday. The Leinster landscape has transformed utterly.

Back in 2002, Dublin had won their first provincial title in seven years; now they are setting out in pursuit of a sixth consecutive Leinster crown, an 11th in 12 seasons.

Lawlor reflects: "I remember someone saying, around ten or 15 years ago on television, that if Dublin ever got organised - at that time they weren't organised at minor and U21 level - the rest are going to be in trouble.

"They have got organised, they've an unbelievable structure put in throughout the county with clubs and with young lads coming through.

"It's like everything, if you're playing club football against a town team - if they have population and local business and stuff set up, there'll be money behind them. It was probably coming, the way football was evolving … once they got organised, everything else was going to fall into place."

The town v country analogy resonates with Lawlor, still playing senior club football at 43. In last year's county final his two second-half goals helped Emo to a pulsating draw with Portlaoise ... but 'The Town' didn't require a second replay invitation to make it nine titles on the spin.

Can anyone halt a similar Sky Blue sequence?

Lawlor ponders how Dublin are now inflicting emphatic defeats even on Kerry and adds: "It's going that way, and it's going to get worse as well unless something is structurally done within the championship set-up.

"Listen, there's very little you can do about it - when you have the population that Dublin have and you have the structures and everything set up properly, it's only a matter of time before they get it right.

"They've got it right, and they've lost one or two players this year, a couple of guys have gone away - but the players that have come in are probably as good as them."

Solution

Any solution? "I'd love to see the national league being structured within the championship," he ventures.

"Ciaran Whelan was on The Sunday Game and saying that, basically, if the league was starting up in the morning you'd pick four or five games and say 'Jesus, that's going to be a good game of football.'

"Whereas now it's probably going to hit the quarter-finals before you say there's one or two interesting games ... the championship started three or four weeks ago, but it hasn't really kicked off yet."