Charlie Redmond says the Leinster Championship is a one-horse race
The 2016 Leinster championship can be summed up in just four words: ‘Dublin will win it’.
And that, my friends, is that.
I know, if Leicester can win the Premier League anything is possible.
But for Dublin not to pick up another Delaney Cup they will have to walk into an ambush of Donegal proportions from two years ago. The fact that Dublin did walk into that one almost guarantees they won’t be shocked in a similar vein this year.
Even if the Sky Blues did sleepwalk into trouble in a match, are any of the Leinster opposition able to play with the speed, the execution, the big-game experience and the resolve in their tactics that Donegal showed that famous day? And then sustain it for 76 minutes against Dublin’s pace? I think not.
I know one current manager of a Leinster county who is convinced that if he could pick a panel of 30 players from the other 10 counties of Leinster, and train them with the sole aim of downing Dublin, that he would still fall short. That’s how far ahead of the pack that Dublin are.
And they seem intent on staying that far ahead too. Witness how Jim Gavin took senior players such as Diarmuid Connolly and Philly McMahon off during the second-half of the league final against Kerry.
He wasn’t having anyone playing outside the game-plan, so they were hauled on to the sideline and subs, hungry subs, were sent on.
Dublin are enjoying a golden period in football. They had three wonderful underage teams – the Under-21s of 2010 and the minor teams of 2011 and 2012 – who sent magical players such as James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, Ciarán Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey into a senior set-up filled with lads like Stephen Cluxton, the Brogan brothers, Paul Flynn and Connolly, who had known awful defeats and who were ready to make hay alongside the talent coming along.
It hasn’t always been so. Dublin went 16 years between 1995 and 2011 without contesting an All-Ireland final. They went seven of those 16 years, between 1995 and 2002, without even winning a Leinster. I remember well the lively celebrations in the capital after the 2002 victory; it was as though a couple of All-Irelands had been won.
Dublin will not always be kings in the east. Kildare have gone well at underage level in the last few years and it is only a matter of time before it comes through at senior level.
Meath have at last realised that their old ways of doing things just won’t work any more. Their new centre of excellence at Dunganny will start churning out really good young footballers before too long.
However, that won’t do the Royals, or any other county, any good this summer.
Much interest in Leinster will centre on who might do a ‘Westmeath’ and come from beyond the obvious choices to oppose Dublin in the final.
Whoever it is, I hope they do not do what Westmeath did last July. They abandoned the vibrant, attacking football that saw them beat Meath in the semi-final for an awful, defensive game that was designed to keep the score down against the Dubs.
The fact that Westmeath had only two weeks between the semi-final and final to practise a style that takes months to master in any competent manner meant it was never going to really work.
To beat Dublin you have to go at them and outscore them. Dublin’s defence is excellent, so if you make things tight, the Sky Blues will still come out on top. A team has to be willing to go at the Dubs and gamble on taking them on and raising green and white flags.
I just don’t think such a team is out there in Leinster that can do all that and this Dublin outfit will equal the heroes of the 1970s by winning six Leinster titles on the spin.
And then they will go forward to try and make themselves the finest Dublin team of all time by winning four All-Irelands over those six years.