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juggernaut Instead of criticising Dublin's obvious 'advantages', we should just admire the greatest team of all time

Historic Victories for tipp and cavan eclipsed anything I had seen on the pitch for years


Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton and team-mates place a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton and team-mates place a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton and team-mates place a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

The emotions I felt at Croke Park were a throwback to my best days in a Kerry jersey. I thought I would never replicate those moments, but I was mistaken.

What I witnessed live in the famous old stadium and on television the next day will remain etched in my memory until the day I die.

I was privileged to be one of the handful of lucky people to be actually inside the stadium for the Bloody Sunday commemoration.

It was a surreal experience being there in the dark in such a vast stadium, seeing 14 torches being lit to remember those who died 100 years ago.

It was eerie, spine-tingling, poignant, and so, so emotional. It was a beautiful tribute to the victims of that never-to-be-forgotten day.

As Martin Luther King said, 'we are not the makers of history; we are made by history.' And that's why the events of November 21, 1920 and the names of the 14 victims who died in the stadium should be etched in our memories forever.

The match afterwards - even though it was the Leinster final last Saturday - seemed so irrelevant. It was just a game. Everybody woke up on Sunday and life went on.

But the 14 innocent people who went to see a match in 1920 never came home.

Unfortunately, the game was a damp squib; a one-sided procession with Meath failing to offer even token resistance.

My initial reaction would be to criticise them for their apparent lack of effort.

But I met a sizeable group of the Meath players afterwards and they were in shock after being blown away by a blue tsunami.

When Dublin switched on the afterburners after ten minutes, the Meathmen were like rabbits caught in the headlights of a juggernaut. Suffice to say that any analysis of this game is futile.

Dublin's performance between the eighth and 37th minutes, when they outscored Meath 2-8 to zero, was football at its very best.

We witnessed all the qualities which have made this team great. Most of all, they demonstrated the ruthlessness that distinguishes the truly great teams.

They scented blood and went for the kill. There was no let-up.

Had this brutal demolition happened in boxing, the towel would have been thrown in long before the finish.

I couldn't help but contrast Dublin's approach to that of Kerry, the supposedly second-best team in the country.

The Kingdom opted to sit back and allow a Division 3 side, Cork, time and space on the ball. The Rebels must have thought all their Christmases had come together.

In a nutshell that's why Dublin are the All-Ireland champions and Kerry are on the outside looking in.

I have often been accused of being a cheerleader for Dublin.

My critics ask how come I don't highlight the advantages Dublin have in terms of population, financial clout or playing most of their games in what has become their 'home' stadium.


The flames lit in memory of 14 victims of Bloody Sunday

The flames lit in memory of 14 victims of Bloody Sunday

The flames lit in memory of 14 victims of Bloody Sunday

I don't intend to cheapen their victories by going down that route. Far better to sit back and admire the greatest team of all time, playing Gaelic football the way it should be played.

But here are a few salient facts. The history of sport is dotted with examples of teams dominating for long periods.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics won 12 championships in 13 years from 1957 to 1969.

Rugby's All Blacks have an 84 per cent winning record against all opponents.

Closer to home, Crossmaglen Rangers won 13 Armagh senior football titles in a row and 19 out of 20 titles between 1996 and 2015.

I don't remember any calls being made to break them up.

So, if Dublin have all these advantages, why are they not winning everything in the GAA?

They have won one All-Ireland minor football title in 36 years.

Though hurling is as well-resourced as football, the senior team haven't appeared in an All-Ireland final since 1961 and haven't won the Liam MacCarthy Cup since 1938.

They have never won an All-Ireland U-20/21 hurling title and last won a minor All-Ireland 55 years ago.

I don't buy the population argument either. Meath and Kildare are among the top ten most-populated counties in Ireland.

And at the other end of the scale, lack of numbers hasn't stopped Kilkenny - the 21st most populated county in Ireland - from dominating in hurling.

But I do accept that Dublin are so well-resourced that they should now finance themselves.

Splitting Dublin in half or having four teams to represent the municipal areas of Fingal, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin City and South County is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Basically, the odds are that, in some seasons, the four 'little' Dublin's would reach the provincial semi-finals.

Regardless of the result in Croke Park, the big message from the last few weekends was how important it is to retain the provincial championships.

The reason is simple - apart from Leinster currently - it gives the so-called weaker counties a better chance of winning meaningful silverware.

Incidentally, I never heard anybody in Tipperary complain about the dominance of Kerry, or even Cork, in the Munster championship during the last 80 years.

The on-the-field action that weekend eclipsed anything I have been privileged to watch for many years. Tipperary's first provincial title since 1935 and Cavan's first Ulster crown in 23 years were very special.

It proved that David could slay Goliath on the football field. Outside Leinster, results are not always predictable and counties can dare to dream and, more importantly, succeed.

I have repeatedly written that I have always believed there are 20 footballers in every county as good as the rest.

Given the right commitment and belief they can compete and beat the very best. Remember the mantra Jim McGuinness brought to Donegal: Commitment, focus, believe and achieve.

I'm sure similar messages were delivered by David Power and Mickey Graham to the Tipp and Cavan footballers.

Tactics and skills are very important, but success can be achieved if players show the qualities so beloved by Brian Cody which are hunger, desire, work rate, intensity and a savage will to win.

That's what Tipp and Cavan had - while Cork and Donegal most certainly didn't.

What was even more pleasing was that the wins achieved by Tipperary and Cavan were not delivered by negative tactics.

Instead, they took the game to their opponents. There is a message there for all football coaches.

And, finally, it would be remiss of me not to compliment the players and management of both Tipperary and Cavan for their post-match interviews.

There was no roaring or shouting, no complaining about the plight of the weaker counties, no having a pop at the critics or saying 'I told you so'.

Instead, those interviewed were emotional, articulate, and intelligent but most importantly they showed humility. They were worth every accolade they received.

It really was a great day for the dreamers!

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Online Editors