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Monday 11 December 2017

The story of 2014 yet to be written ... by the winners

HISTORY is written by the winners. That's why the story of Football Championship 2014 will not be penned by Dublin, contrary to every expectation up to 3.57pm on Sunday, August 31.

At that moment, Jim Gavin's 'Invincibles' were five points up. Less than a minute later, Ryan McHugh launched the point that would kickstart Donegal's earth-moving comeback. You know the rest.

But that doesn't necessarily mean this year's footballing fable will be written by the Boswellian followers of Jim McGuinness. It could be copyright Éamonn Fitzmaurice ... even if that looked the most unlikely of prospects at 5.23pm on Saturday, August 30, when Cillian O'Connor tapped over a routine free to leave Mayo seven up on the Kingdom.

The above snapshots are repeated for one reason: to remind you that Gaelic football can be a dastardly difficult game to second-guess. Even in this age of endless stats, it boils down to opinion ... and every seemingly bombproof opinion could be shredded by a counter-argument until it's all over at 5pm this Sunday (barring you-know-what).

Then, and only then, will the winners sharpen their quills/social media skills and start writing.

In the meantime, we've already seen several footballing 'facts' turn to dust this summer ...

(1) THE LEAGUE MATTERS?

Depends on the year, clearly. Lifting April silver was, we now know, not a promising sign for the Dubs. Indeed, if revisionism is your thing, you might cite the first 40 minutes of their league semi-final against Cork (not the last half-hour) as an augury of the defensive chaos to come.

How did Kerry exit spring? With a ten-point collapse at home to Cork, to finish sixth in Division One. And Donegal? With promotion offset by an ominous six-point loss to Monaghan in a tame Division Two decider.

(2) DONEGAL LACK DEPTH?

This, we always knew(!!), was one of the key reasons why Donegal were never going to retain Sam Maguire last year. And also why they wouldn't last the distance this summer - even more so when Mark McHugh walked. But then, at the time, did we know his younger brother Ryan (pictured) was destined to blossom so spectacularly in his second season? Or that Odhrán Mac Niallais would be such a rookie revelation?

(3) KERRY BACKS TO THE WALL?

Here's the bit we find strange. At the outset, there were deep suspicions that Kerry - in transition - didn't possess a rearguard that could survive all summer. Maybe it was the memory of conceding 3-18 to the Dubs in that classic semi-final - or the retirement of defensive icon Tomás Ó Sé.

Yet, in his newspaper column yesterday, the latter's big brother Darragh was predicting that Kerry won't "get caught cold and give away goals like Dublin did", adding: "Stop them (Donegal) scoring goals and it's hard to see how they can build up a total that Kerry won't be able to beat."

Now, while bowing to the wisdom of Darragh and recognising the tactical savvy of Éamonn Fitz, can we be so bold as to recall that this Kerry defence leaked three goals to Mayo in the first 50 minutes of the replay, and two against Galway (one when allowing a midfielder gallop half the length of the pitch)?

(4) KERRY WITHOUT THE GOOCH ...

Won't win anything. So we were all told. Then again, maybe he's about to be sprung!

(5) 'ALL ON THE DAY' RÁIMÉIS?

Forgive us but, once again, that awful cliché has relevance. Prepare for several new, unforeseen chapters on the biggest day.

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