watershed moment | 

It's D-day for Dubs if Kildare become first Leinster county in 22 seasons to beat them in a regulation match

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Sean McGoldrick

DUBLIN last lost four league games on the spin nearly half a century ago.

In the season before Kevin Heffernan took charge and revolutionised the team and arguably the GAA as well, Dublin were beaten in their first four games of the 1972-73 National league.

A squad which included future All-Ireland medallists Tony Hanahoe, Paddy Cullen, Gay O’Driscoll, Sean Doherty, Alan Larkin, Pat O’Neill, Robbie Kelleher, George Wilson, Paddy Reilly, David Hickey, Anton O’Toole and Bobby Doyle, struggled in the league.

In round one Offaly – who had won the previous two All-Ireland titles – hammered them by 13 points in Croke Park. They subsequently lost to Galway, Longford – on a bizarre score of 4-4 to 0-3 – and Cork, who went on to win the All-Ireland title seven months later.

The only victory they achieved in the campaign was against Kildare – they lost to Roscommon and Kerry in the final two rounds and were relegated from Division 1A.

Louth beat them in a replay in the second round of the 1973 Leinster championship. Against this background what Heffernan achieved the following season when Dublin were crowned All-Ireland champions for the first time since 1963 was remarkable

Coincidentally, Kevin Heffernan was still manager when the team next suffered a melt-down in the 1983-84 league.

They were All-Ireland champions at the start of the campaign but seriously depleted with a number of key players serving suspensions after a major fracas in the All-Ireland final against Galway.

However, they still managed to draw two of their first four games; their only victory was achieved against Kildare and with just four league points they were again relegated.

In the event it didn’t have much impact on the championship campaign as they retained the Leinster title before losing to Kerry in the Centenary All-Ireland final.

This season Dublin have lost their opening three league ties and are on a run of four consecutive defeats when their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo last year is taken into account.

It was inevitable their dominance of the All-Ireland series would end at some point. Nobody though expected them to struggle in the league.

Regardless of how Division 1 pans out, the key issue is whether the Leinster championship can become competitive again.

Dublin has been the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Leinster championship for most of this century.

They have won every provincial title bar one since 2005. There hasn’t been a competitive final since 2013 when Dublin came from two points down at half time against Meath to win by seven.

Granted there was a hint last year that they might be in decline when they won by just eight points against Kildare.

Between 2014 and 2020 their winning margins were 16, 13, 15, 9, 18, 16 and 21 points respectively.

So, though it is still only February, Sunday’s game in Newbridge is important because if Kildare become the first Leinster county in 22 seasons to beat Dublin in a regulation match it will be a watershed moment.

Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton coming off the pitch following last Saturday night's Allianz FL Division 1 defeat to Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton coming off the pitch following last Saturday night's Allianz FL Division 1 defeat to Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

For the record, Westmeath did beat Dublin in 2008 in the league but it was a Division 2 final rather than a regulation match.

It is merely a coincidence but just as Dublin struggle to find traction in the Allianz League the GAA is set to slash their Coaching and Games Development budget by a whopping 36 per cent.

As the accompanying table illustrates, historically Dublin GAA has done particularly well from the fund, securing just over £20m since 2007 which dwarfs every other counties’ allocation.

Cork, for example, which boasted 2,762 registered teams in 2021 compared to Dublin’s 1661, received a total of just over £2.5m since 2017.

Cork though cannot complain. Rather than focus on Coaching and Games Development project in the last decade, they opted for an ambitions re-development of Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

The GAA initially granted the project €20m before providing an additional loan of €10m when the project ran over budget.

The majority of the Ulster counties fared poorly with the Fermanagh, Down, Tyrone, Monaghan and Armagh occupying the last five places on the table.

But everything is set to change with Central Council due to discuss a new method for distributing the funds during this weekend’s Congress in Mayo.

The impetus for the change came from former Westmeath footballer John Connellan.

In an ironic twist of fate Dublin would have fared better under the model he proposed – which was based primarily on the number of registered players in each county – than the GAA model which is likely to be approved by Central Council.

The bottom line is that Dublin could see their annual funding drop from £1,337,630 in 2019 to an estimated €847,359 if the new scheme is approved.

Under the model proposed by the Connellan group Dublin could have received €1,267,711.

If approved, the new model will kick in when the GAA’s new financial year starts in October.

Currently based on 2019 membership data, the 2022 playing, club and team numbers should be available and applicable then, but the difference is not expected to be significant.

For Dublin though it’s a case of it never rains but it pours this spring.

How Much Counties have Received from Croke Park for Coaching and Games Development 2007-2021


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