Dublin runaway train will come to a halt some day says Pete McGrath
PETE McGrath is firmly against the notion of splitting Dublin into two and says their runaway success on the All-Ireland stage will not last forever.
Down’s double All-Ireland winning manager is also not in favour of creating Championship tiers in football and feels every inter-county player should have the right to dream of winning the Sam Maguire.
Dublin are aiming for their fourth All-Ireland title in a row this season and while he acknowledges the one-sided nature of the Leinster Championship, the GAA would be wrong to tamper with traditional formats.
“Dublin have obviously brought the whole preparation to a new level and by them doing that other counties are trying to do the same,” said McGrath, who is currently managing Louth.
“It was the same in the 1970s with the Dublin team and the Kerry team – they brought it to a new level. And I think that’s what’s happening at the moment.
“Dublin are highly talented players, needless to say, and their population size is a big thing. But I think there would be something wrong in dividing Dublin because imagine beating ‘North Dublin’ in an All-Ireland final, for example.
“Does that sound right? It doesn’t sound right to me.”
He added: “People describe them as a runaway train but even runaway trains come to a halt and they will come to a halt. If they’ve set the standard it’s up to the other counties to beat that standard. I know their resources and financial backing is a cut above what anybody else has got but at the end of the day they can only put 15 players on the pitch.
“So I wouldn’t be pessimistic, I wouldn’t be depressed. If Dublin have achieved excellence then it’s something to be admired and it’s something we all should be trying to emulate.”
Longford boss Denis Connerton has often said that their Championship begins in the All-Ireland Qualifiers because such is Dublin’s dominance on the provincial stage.
The Dubs are aiming for their eighth Leinster in a row this year.
While McGrath acknowledges the lop-sided nature of Leinster it is not enough, he insists, to start making changes to the provincial Championships.
“As far as the Leinster Championship is concerned, that’s probably one of the downsides of Dublin’s dominance and the utter predictability of who’s going to win it.
“There is a bit of uncertainty about All-Ireland semi-finals and finals but in terms of the Leinster Championship there is no uncertainty – it’s a foregone conclusion.
“To an extent, it’s soul-destroying for the other teams in Leinster. Quite often, these teams look to the Qualifier route to get to an All-Ireland quarter-final or whatever it happens to be.
“But ask any team in Leinster: would they rather go out in the first round of Leinster or go and be beaten in a Leinster final by Dublin? They would all say we want to get to a Leinster final and play in Croke Park.
“I wouldn’t like to see changes to the provincial Championships because the association is built on tradition, legacy and history and the provincial Championships have been a big part of that history and the glamour of inter-county senior football.
“Take Munster, for example, I think it’s realistic for Tipperary to be winning their Championship this year, and who knows, Clare mightn’t be a million miles away either. In Ulster, a provincial title is still a massive thing to win.
“Maybe for the exception of Tyrone, if you asked the Ulster counties if they won an Ulster title this year and nothing more, they would be happy. That, to me, indicates the permanent importance of the provincial Championships.
McGrath, who is preparing Louth to face Carlow on May 13, added: “Roscommon won the Connacht title last year and it did an amazing amount for them and if Galway won it this year the same would be true. To dilute them in any way, or worse, abolish them, would be a sad day and, at the stroke of a pen, wiping out decades and decades of great matches and great memories. You can’t do that.”
McGrath guided Fermanagh to an All-Ireland quarter-final in 2015 before they lost to the Dubs at Croke Park. The idea of creating tiers would be an anathema to the Rostrevor man.
“I think you would find universal opposition to a B Championship among players, and I think the players are most important. Sam Maguire, that name and what it conjures up, in every young player’s head – whether they’re from Wicklow, Dublin, Down or Fermanagh – you want to have a go at Sam Maguire.
“If you’re going to consign counties and players – even until they get up that ladder – to tiers it would be wrong to deprive them of playing for the Sam Maguire, even though it’s only a dream, I think sport is about dreams.
“It’s not about sanitising things and I think the GAA has done that far too much through the Super 8s - sport is still about romance and giving people the right to have that dream.”