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battling blues This Dublin team will eventually lose – but one feels when that day comes it will not mean the end

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Dublin's Brian Howard is tackled by Luke Fortune, left, and Pádraig Faulkner of Cavan

Dublin's Brian Howard is tackled by Luke Fortune, left, and Pádraig Faulkner of Cavan

Dublin's Brian Howard is tackled by Luke Fortune, left, and Pádraig Faulkner of Cavan

It’s no surprise that Dublin are back in another final and are just one victory away from completing the six-in-a-row. It has been an extraordinarily successful run from an outstanding group of players.

There is so much more to this group than just talentedfootballers. They have now created a template for all future Dublin teams, which must be demoralising for most, if not all, opposition.

It is interesting to listen to the “neutral” commentators who are still complimentary after each game but also seem resigned to a future in blue.

All good things eventually come to an end and this Dublin team will lose – but one feels that when that day comes it will not mean the end.

The success in the last decade is no accident and has nothing to do with luck. It is a result of the structures that were put in place in the nineties, which were tweaked and improved on over the years.

Financial investment has played an important part, but in terms of the senior inter-county expenses, I don’t believe we spend any more than the other top teams. That argument is a lazy one and an insult to all the great workers within the pyramid.

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A dejected Gearóid McKiernan, left, and Jason McLoughlin of Cavan

A dejected Gearóid McKiernan, left, and Jason McLoughlin of Cavan

A dejected Gearóid McKiernan, left, and Jason McLoughlin of Cavan

The clubs in Dublin deserve huge credit as they do most of the work developing the talent.

When young club talent makes their way onto the development squads at 13 years of age, the key word is “development”. They fully concentrate on the skills of the game, and while winning is important, it is not something that defines a group.

The sole intention is to mould young men and prepare them, not to win the Gerry Reilly trophy but to be proficient in the basic skills of the game and develop them into very good adult players.

There was a time when the strongest and tallest bullocks used to dominate our minor teams - but that is no longer the case. When choosing a 13-year-old for developing, the coach’s eyes are trained on the skilful player and size is irrelevant.

I would change some aspects of our development programme because we still haven’t cracked the minor grade. I know for a fact that this year’s minor group were prepared as well as any previous team, but on the day they were well beaten by a decent Meath side in Navan.

That said, some of that group will no doubt make their way into the senior set-up eventually and the work they put in over the last three or four years will stand them in good stead.

The majority of the present senior team have no minor medals but had the skills and the temperament to go on and be successful at U-20 level and are now terrific senior players. It really is the model that others should follow, although at this stage they have a massive gap to close.

On Saturday, we witnessed another mauling and a new victim. Cavan, in fairness, arrived with plenty of confidence, well prepared and were quick out of the blocks with some excellent attacking play.

After seven minutes, the scores were level at three points each but the Ulster men started to make mistakes in open play, mainly from their attacking players, who were turned over far too often and the result was often a score against.

In that first half, I counted six times when Cavan were in an attacking position, looking for a score of their own, only to be dispossessed with Dublin punishing the mistake with a point up the other end.

The champions, on the other hand, rarely make the same mistake and with just five points separating the teams at the break, it was easy to see where the game changed and slipped out of Cavan's control.

To have any chance of beating this Dublin team you have to come with your A game, limit the mistakes, convert a very high percentage of scoring chances and probably hope that Dublin have an off day.

The latter part rarely, if ever, happens and that’s why the result seems inevitable before a ball is kicked. Dublin just keep doing what they do best and seem to be almost in cruise control at times. Cavan tried hard but this was always going to be too much of a step up for them.

It has been a good year for this great footballing county but they must build on this – forget Saturday’s experience, take the learning points and try and do something that no Cavan team has done for a long time and retain the Anglo Celt Cup. That would represent real progress.

For Dublin, it is another All-Ireland final to look forward to in under two weeks’ time and a chance to keep their remarkable run going. For them, it will be just another game.

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