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gaa verdict My understanding is that Cluxton has retired - he wants to go quietly and he is entitled to that

Champs have been on the decline since 2018 and Cluxton’s absence distracting

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The lack of info about Cluxton is creating a vacuum. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The lack of info about Cluxton is creating a vacuum. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The lack of info about Cluxton is creating a vacuum. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

On what was the best weekend for Gaelic Football for a long time, I’m afraid I couldn’t enjoy it properly. I couldn’t take poor Brendan Óg Ó Dufaigh out of my mind. I thought about him and his family all last week.

What a loss of a fine young man, what a dreadful time for his family and friends. Doesn’t it put life into perspective, and make us value what we have?

We treat the GAA as if it is a matter of life and death – when it is not. Christ, we have our priorities all wrong. My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew Brendan and his extended GAA family for the difficult days that lie ahead.

Back to the trivial, and a feeling of ‘I told you so’. Are the Dubs really vulnerable as they march towards a magnificent seven of Sams? Yes, they are!

This team hit a peak in 2017 and have just been slipping ever so slightly each year since. In 2018, they won the All-Ireland title without having to beat either of their greatest rivals, Kerry or Mayo.

In 2019, Kerry – under new manager Peter Keane – could, and indeed should, have taken them in the drawn All-Ireland final.

And while we in the Kingdom have been regularly accused over the years of winning ‘soft’ All-Irelands, Dublin got the softest of soft All-Irelands in the Covid year of 2020.

Mentally

Kerry went out in the first round, Cavan were not mentally right to face them in the All-Ireland semi-final, and finalists Mayo were actually in transition, with youngsters coming along to replace some of the heroes of 2010 to 2017 who had lost their starting roles.

But how could it be otherwise for Dublin?. Over the last three years, men such as Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and Michael Darragh Macauley bowed to Father Time, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion walked away in their prime and now injuries are catching up with them. Remarkably Dublin had very few injuries in their glory days, but right now a whole half-back line of Eoin Murchan, John Small and Robbie McDaid missed last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final.

Like everything else, winning becomes a habit. It becomes like muscle memory and you learn to eke out the victory, even when not playing well. I remember in my time, 1985 and 1986, when so many of us were going for the seventh and eighth All-Ireland medals, we knew we just weren’t as good as the team that had so nearly won the five-in-a-row in 1982.

Stage

We were there for the taking in 1986, in particular. But Meath, in the All-Ireland semi-final, had reached that stage for the first time in years and couldn’t put us away and Tyrone, in the county’s first ever All-Ireland final, went seven points up with 25 minutes left. However, they didn’t know how to seal the deal.

Does that sound vaguely familiar? Step forward Mayo who so often in big games, especially against the Dubs in recent years, got stage fright in the closing stages and couldn’t see out a game.

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Dublin stalwarts like James McCarthy will not give up their All-Ireland title without a fight

Dublin stalwarts like James McCarthy will not give up their All-Ireland title without a fight

Dublin stalwarts like James McCarthy will not give up their All-Ireland title without a fight

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As for the Sky Blues of 2021, several distress signals have been sent out this year.

There was the second-half against Kerry in the Allianz League in Thurles, when they scored just three times – and were hanging on for a draw at the end, with no sign of their customary composure.

There was the first 20 minutes against Wexford when the Yella Bellies got at Dublin and unsettled them physically. And last Sunday saw a very poor second-half showing against Meath. Against a better team – a Kerry, a Tyrone or Mayo – Dublin might have lost that match.

Hovering over them. of course, is Hamlet’s Ghost – Stephen Cluxton. The confusion and speculation around his future is not helping Dublin at all.

The Dubs under Jim Gavin were world leaders in controlling the narrative. They controlled everything. Not now, not in this case.

Vacuum

My understanding is that Cluxton has retired, he wants to go quietly and he is entitled to that – he is doing nothing more than walking away from a hobby, let’s not forget that.

The problem is that there is now an information vacuum. And into a vacuum come truths, half-truths, innuendo and rumour. The sooner this is all clarified the better for the Dublin football team.

Finally, as they used to print in the newspapers, ‘Ulster Papers Please Copy’. The best three matches in the Championship so far have been, 3) Donegal v Derry, 2) Donegal v Tyrone and 1) Armagh v Monaghan – all in the province of Ulster.

In Armagh v Monaghan game there were 44 scores, no blanket defences and the game of Gaelic football was played as it is meant to be played. Defensive coaches, statisticians and video analysts were ignored – as both teams set out to win the match by trying to outscore the other.

The fingerprints of the best coach in Ireland, Donie Buckley, were all over Monaghan’s performance. Will we in Kerry be regretting letting Donie go before the season ends?

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