Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Paddy Power is offering slightly better than even money on Dublin winning the 2016 Championship. That is a short, short price in a 32-horse race. There is clear separation from the rest as we look down the board – Kerry are second favorites at 3/1, Mayo 11/2, new kids on the block Tyrone at 12/1 and it’s 16/1 the field after that. So, football is now reflective of Irish life in general – both are a case of Dublin and then the rest.
Is there any point in running the Championship at all? Well, yes there is. Dublin are clearly the best team in Ireland and would win a US-style best-of-seven series against anybody, with very few teams, if any, being able to take them to the seventh game.
But the Championship doesn’t have best-of-seven series. Come August it’s all about turning up on the day and, in knockout competitions, upsets are always possible.
The biggest problem Jim Gavin has is keeping his team focused. The Leinster Championship, to the shame of the all counties involved other than Dublin, is a joke. One-time super-powers like Meath, Offaly, Kildare and others should be humiliated to have fallen so low. Instead, they seem to accept their position in the ashes.
Dublin have always been the big dogs in Leinster, but even when Meath, say, lost to Dublin, Dublin knew generally knew that they had been in a game. That hasn’t been the case in some time, and there is no reason – none – to suspect that’s going to change.
Which means Dublin have three hurdles to clear to retain the All-Ireland. Gavin’s job is to for them to keep their edge in the three months between now and August, when Dublin’s season begins.
Dublin, as ever, are bathed in hype. The modern Dublin team does more to live up to it than its predecessors, but the hype is still there. Oisin McConville was one of few to call Dublin out for being poor for long periods against Kerry in the League Final. People who are interested in winning this year’s All-Ireland should note the mental frailty that Dublin displayed there, and know just how very hard it is to maintain concentration over a long season of going through the motions in Leinster.
The other thing that aspirants to glory should note is that Dublin are very used to having things their own way. What will they be like when things start going against them? Gavin has drawn a lot of praise for having learned the lesson of Dublin’s defeat against Donegal in 2014. Have Dublin really learned a lesson, or have they just not come up against a team that questioned them the way that Donegal questioned them?
The team that will beat Dublin need a McGuinness at the blackboard to plot Dublin’s destruction. Is there anybody among the contenders that could lay claim to such a level of generalship?
Yes, there is. It is Tyrone. Since the era of the manager began in the mid-seventies, only one man has guided two generations of teams to All-Irelands – Seán Boylan with Meath in 1987-’88 and again, with a new team in 1996 and 1999. Mickey Harte has it within his power to emulate Boylan, and to end his time with Tyrone on yet another high. The only question is if his players can execute on the pitch what Mickey will have plotted in his head. And only time will tell that.
Equally, short of meeting them in the final, beating Dublin does not mean you win the All-Ireland. Donegal, 20/1 longshots to win the All-Ireland this year, can tell you all about that. The demise of Dublin would spur on the rest just as much as it would those who defeated Dublin, and open the competition out again.
Kerry most of all. It would be interesting to know whom the average Kerryman would prefer to meet in an All-Ireland, Dublin or Tyrone. Chances are he doesn’t know himself. Tyrone have been under Kerry’s skin since 2003 but Kerry really expected to beat Dublin in the final-that-didn’t-count a few weeks ago. Their frustration at not only not doing so, but getting hammered by a coasting Dublin team, was clearly evident at full time. Kerry can’t be in a good place in the heads right now.
The other major contender that are seldom in a good place in the their heads are Mayo, of course. More on them and their prospects tomorrow. In the meantime, Dublin are the pick but if you’re having a bet, Tyrone is a sensible investment at about 12/1.