GAA Football

A Tyrone All-Ireland SFC triumph would be 'good' for the GAA

More scenes such as this would be 'good' for the GAA.... Pic Cliff Donaldson

MY colleague Cahair O'Kane strangely couldn't bring himself to say it, when he foresaw a future of continuing Dublin dominance, augmented by Kerry returning to battle with them at the top of the football tree.

Yet there can be no denying it: Tyrone winning this year's All-Ireland Senior Football Final would be 'good' for the GAA.

I typed those inverted commas because if I'd received a euro for every time we were told in the first decade of this millennium that a Dublin All-Ireland SFC triumph would be 'good' for the GAA then I'd be as rich as the Metropolitans themselves. Well, almost.

In truth, an All-Ireland Final victory is only good for the county that wins it.

Dublin's wins have been good for Dublin.

Even the argument that their success generates more money for the Association doesn't bear much scrutiny - because the GAA just hands most of that money back to Dublin.

One could argue that another Dublin win would actually be 'bad' for the GAA.

A sixth success in eight seasons, and a fourth consecutively, would merely reinforce the increasingly sky blue colouring of the Association.

Dublin would rake in even more money from merchandising and sponsorship from companies keen to be associated with them if they are on a 'drive for five', helping them pull even further clear of the pack.

Having a dominant team isn't necessarily detrimental to a sport - but it can be.

One guess at which year had the lowest attendance for an All-Ireland Football Final since 1943 (ignoring the Polo Grounds Final of 1947 in New York)?

That's right, 1981 - when Kerry completed the last football four-in-a-row. The crowd was less than a thousand higher the following year when the Kingdom went for five against Offaly.

There hasn't been an attendance lower than the 62,309 in 1982 (up on the 61,489 of the previous year), apart from 1994, which I'm ignoring because the Cusack Stand was in the process of being re-built then.

The previous four-in-a-row before 1981 was also achieved by Kerry, in 1932 – and fewer than 26,000 attended that day, more than 16,500 down on the previous year – and there hasn't been a smaller crowd since then.

Now, it's unlikely that All-Ireland Football Finals WON'T sell out in years to come – but already we've witnessed the smallest semi-final crowd for a match involving Dublin in 23 years, even though that was against Galway, who had reached the last four for the first time since 2001.

It's entirely understandable that Dublin supporters enjoy seeing their side steam-roller almost all opposition – but it's becoming less fun for everyone else.

There's no doubt that Dublin are very good to watch, but part of the appeal of sport is its unpredictability.

Occasion junkies that we are, we'll still pack out Croke Park for finals – but before that?

It's a stretch to say that Dublin are 'beatable', given that no one has actually inflicted a Championship defeat on them since Donegal did so four summers ago.

Dublin have now gone 27 Championship matches without defeat, winning 25 of those, the only draws coming against Mayo in 2015 and 2016. They've won 14 in a row since that draw in the 2016 Final.

Going back a little further, since they lost the 2010 semi-final to Cork (by a point), Dublin have lost just two out of 49 Championship matches, in the semi-finals of 2012 (Mayo) and 2014 (Donegal).

If they win on September 2, they'll take their Championship win ratio in that period to an astonishing 92 per cent – and Dublin haven't lost an All-Ireland SFC Final since 1994.

Over that timeframe, they've enjoyed an average winning margin of around eight points – and they destroyed Tyrone by 12 in last year's semi-final.

They seem to be getting better and better year on year. Players come and go, but Dublin's conveyor belt of talent runs on, with the brilliant Brian Howard and Eoin Murchan emerging onto the senior scene this season.

Can anyone stop them? This year or in the near future?

Clearly a Tyrone triumph would offer hope to the rest, even if many (most?) of them won't be cheering on the Red Hands, for various reasons.

A source at Croke Park noted the long faces in the lift down to the media interview room after Tyrone made it through to the decider.

Oh well. Haters gonna hate.

There'll be quite some debate if Dublin do complete the four-in-a-row about whether or not they are 'the greatest football team ever' – but they are certainly in contention for that accolade.

The Kerry side that almost won five consecutive crowns is certainly better in one regard, having won the four finals by an average margin of nine-and-a-half points. Indeed they defeated Dublin themselves by 17 and 11 (then Roscommon by three and Offaly by seven).

Yet their five final triumphs have come by a collective winning margin of seven points, with four of those (three against poor Mayo) by the minimum possible.

Then again, that could be construed as evidence of Dublin's great winning ability, the fact that they have always come out on top in close contests.

So, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know Dublin are going to win.

Probably…

But the fourth title should be with Tyrone, folks, rather than a four-in-a-row for the Dubs. It's what the galaxy wants (apart from the haters) – and what would be 'good' for the GAA.

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