Charlie Redmond: Why Leinster cakewalk is bad news for Dubs
It pains me to write this, but the Leinster Football Championship is at a low ebb — the lowest I can ever remember, for there is only Meath that could possibly hold Dublin to eight points or less over the next eight weeks.
Dublin aren’t utterly dominant in Ireland, just in their province. And for that the rest of Leinster has to shoulder the blame.
Teams from Munster, Ulster and Connacht have beaten the Sky Blues in the championship a combined seven times in the last nine seasons – Leinster teams have beaten them just once.
Leinster counties have got to put their shoulders to the wheel at underage level and start turning out top young players.
Dublin are winning most of the eastern minor and U-21 titles of late, until that changes nothing will change at senior level either.
I’ve scanned across the province and, with one Royal exception, I just can’t see where there is a challenge coming from this summer.
Dublin’s fitness, conditioning and strong subs’ bench mean that no matter how hard other teams try, or how well they play over a given 60 minutes, Jim Gavin’s team will pull away in the last 10 to win handily.
Let’s look at the counties who might put it up to Dublin. Well, Laois were beaten by a college team in the O’Byrne Cup and then only avoided relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz League because of other counties’ results on the last day of the season.
Westmeath and Kildare WERE relegated to Division 3 in the spring. Not even the most loyal Lilywhite, and there are plenty of such supporters, can argue against the notion that they have clearly fallen backwards under Jason Ryan’s leadership.
The one potential exception to a Dublin cakewalk is surely Meath, whose stubborn pride means they will put it up to Dublin should the teams clash in the provincial final on July 12.
Players returning from injury will give Meath a better squad than they had 12 months ago, that’s for sure. The problem is that Dublin have improved too, with new lads like John Small, Brian Fenton and Eoin Culligan now a big part of the panel.
Yet is this dominance any good for Dublin? The answer is no, as it is one of the main reasons teams from other counties beat the Dubs at the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final stages: they aren’t battle-hardened coming out of the provincial Championship.
Put it this way, can you ever imagine an Ulster football winner coming to Croke Park unsure of how they stand? No, if you’ve dug your way through Ulster, you know you are ready for anything.
I suspect that in his quarter-final on May 31 and the semi-final on June 28, manager Jim Gavin will make the best of a bad situation and actually give a few fringe players a chance.
The forward line is the most interesting part of the puzzle Gavin has to solve before those giant games loom in August.
If we take it that Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan are, injuries apart, certain starters, then Dean Rock, Alan Brogan, Ciaran Kilkenny, Paddy Andrews, Cormac Costello and Kevin McManamon are chasing three places on the team.
And if Fenton doesn’t make it at midfield then he can be added to the mix in the half-forward line. Getting those calls right is a big issue for Gavin, they have to have the right mix in place for later in the season.