GAA Football

Manchester City can be challenged but Dublin dominance will remain

Dublin celebrate their third consecutive Sam Maguire Cup success last year - and look set for more. Picture Seamus Loughran

IT'S not just their sky blue colours, success, and having more resources than everyone else that prompt comparisons between Dublin footballers and Manchester City.

Both outfits have gone from being almost derided to becoming dominant forces.

If Dublin weren't quite the laughing stock of the GAA, they weren't far off it up until this decade. Even their only football All-Ireland for more than a quarter of a century owed much to some dubious officiating.

City had to go 27 years further back for their previous top title triumph (and even then they were over-shadowed by arch-rivals United winning the European Cup).

In the breakthrough year for both (2011 for Dublin, 2012 for City), both wins came with dramatic late scores and both have enjoyed further triumphs since those.

Dublin is the most populous county by far, attracting the greatest amount of funding, sponsorship, and support.

City's fan-base is still not the biggest but they have spent phenomenal amounts of petro-dollars to build a superb squad

What should always be said to the credit of both Dublin and City is that, for all their advantages, they produce exciting, attractive teams.

What's more, their coaching improves their players individually, and their teams tactically.

Yet while both Manchester City and Dublin can be thrilling to watch, their dominance is arguably boring.

There wasn't an English title race to speak of this season, such was City's superiority almost from the outset. There hasn't even been a great race for the top four. Manchester United seemed to make sure of their place by the turn of the year, while Liverpool and Spurs haven't been pushed too hard as Arsenal and latterly Chelsea have fallen away.

Even if they aren't 'the best Premier League team ever', City are pretty darn good, on course to break quite a few records, and their brilliance seemed to demoralise the rest.

It's likely that Dublin will boss this year's Championship to a similar extent. Sure, the Dubs have had close contests with Mayo in particular and Kerry to an extent in recent years, but both those counties don't look as strong this year.

As great as they are to watch, surely even the most ardent 'sky blue' fans can understand concerns from others about where such dominance might lead?

Admittedly, City haven't even managed to retain the Premier League – yet – and are still seeking their first Champions League triumph. Other clubs, notably Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and PSG can still match or perhaps even exceed them in terms of financial muscle.

Dublin, though, have won five of the last six National Football League Division One titles, and five of the last seven All-Ireland Championships, including completing a hat-trick last year.

When pundits predicted such domination several years ago the response was 'Stop worrying, it hasn't happened yet'.

Well, it has happened now.

Perhaps we do just have to accept that Dublin are superb; the other side of that coin may be, however, that others simply cannot 'catch up', as they are urged to do.

Dublin regained the League title while resting a host of star names and experimenting with keen younger players. The talent continues to come through their ranks thanks to the quality and quantity of their coaching.

There's an increasing sense that more and more major GAA football championship matches are becoming more and more meaningless.

The 'Super Eights' may inject some excitement, or at least something different, but everyone else is still surely playing off for the right to be beaten by Dublin; only the stage at which that will happen really remains in doubt.

There is an argument that having one dominant team in a sport actually increases interest rather than reduces it. At one time Kilkenny seemed almost unstoppable in hurling but that did not adversely affect attendances.

Everyone else wants to see if the big beast can be brought down.

In soccer that led to the 'Anyone But United' syndrome, with many rooting for Manchester United to fail, no matter who else took the trophies.

The hope for those who don't follow City and Dublin is that it once seemed that the Old Trafford empire would never weaken.

However, the turning of the cycle seems more likely to affect City than Dublin.

A low-scoring code such as soccer retains a greater propensity for shock results, for dogged defending to earn its sometimes dubious reward.

In high-scoring games like (Gaelic) football and hurling the cream is much more likely to rise to the top.

Without some degree of uncertainty in terms of outcome, interest may fall away.

And a big difference between Dublin and Manchester City is that the Dubs are a better all-round team because they're better defensively.

Not only does Jim Gavin have some of the best backs in the game, his whole team works hard when it doesn't have the ball, forwards tracking back to regain possession.

City may have that approach too, the determination to win the ball back as soon as possible, but their actual defenders have flaws and weaknesses which can be exposed by quick, clever attackers and good movement, as demonstrated by both Liverpool and Manchester United recently.

Guardiola's brilliant Barcelona team had that slightly soft centre too. Defenders who are excellent passers and also sticky man-markers are very rare.

While acknowledging comparison of different codes, Dubs have defenders who do the basics of defending very well while at the same time being excellent all-round footballers.

City will surely add more trophies in the seasons to come, but such success cannot be taken for granted.

However, if Dublin don't keep on collecting silverware, that will be a major surprise – a bolt from the sky blue.

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