GAA Football

Dublin pulling further clear of the All-Ireland pack

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifting the Sam Maguire Cup has become an annual image as the Dubs' dominance increases.
Pic Philip Walsh

DUBLIN’S financial figures have been closely scrutinised in recent years - but their numbers on the pitch are arguably even more astonishing.

If, as anticipated by most observers, Jim Gavin’s men complete their ‘drive for five’ and retain the Sam Maguire Cup yet again they will have extended their unbeaten run in Championship football to at least 36 games.

They have won their last 19 Championship games - and could conceivably take that on to 23 consecutive victories this year by winning their two remaining ‘Super Eights’ matches and an All-Ireland semi-final and Final. Those 19 wins have been by an average margin of almost 13 points. Even their last 10 matches at All-Ireland level have been won by almost 7.5 points on average.

The Dubs are closing in on scoring 100 goals and 1000 points since the start of the 2011 Championship. Their current tally stands at 98-975 (1,269), so both those barriers could be broken with a big win against Roscommon this weekend in Croke Park.

Their average winning margin is also getting closer to double figures: it’s now just over 9.5 points, over 54 matches. That figure has tended to increase steadily – barring a ‘blip’ of just over six points in 2016 - more than trebling from 2011 (3.67) to 12.125 points last year.

So far this season that stands at 17.5 points, although involvement in the All-Ireland series decreases that figure. Usually.

For context in terms of unbeaten records, the previous best was held by Wexford, with a tally of 22 consecutive games unbeaten in their All-Ireland four-in-a-row from 1915 to 1918 inclusive, extending into the 1919 Leinster campaign.

That run, ironically, was ended by Dublin, on a score-line of 0-11 to 1-1, after the Yellow-bellies had overcome Wicklow in their provincial opener.

There’s an argument that Wexford could add six more matches to that tally, having lost the 1914 All-Ireland Final replay to Kerry, who were found to have used an illegal player. Strangely for those days, Wexford did not appeal against the result, which came in their sixth match that season.

Still, even adding six on would only take Wexford to 28 unbeaten, a total this Dublin side reached in their Championship opener this year, the 26-point thrashing of Louth.

Kerry were the only other realistic rivals for the longest unbeaten streak, having done the four-in-a-row twice. However, their 1929-32 run comprised only 14 matches and they only had to play a Munster Final in 1933 before losing in the All-Ireland semi-final to Cavan, so their tally was 15.

In their most recent attempt at five-in-a-row the Kingdom went 19 matches unbeaten, eventually losing the 1982 All-Ireland Final in controversial circumstances to Offaly. They did hammer Tipperary in their 1983 Munster opener, but were then pipped by Cork in the provincial final.

So it took almost a century for any county to surpass Wexford’s unbeaten streak of 22, Dublin doing so last year when they destroyed Longford by 19 points, 2-25 to 0-12, in the Leinster semi-finals.

“In Leinster, Dublin is the big monster that looms over everybody,” said Longford boss Denis Connerton after that defeat and the Dubs do seem to be getting stronger.

The unbeaten run began in 2015 as Dublin began their recovery from their stunning defeat by Donegal in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final. The Dubs had won 10 consecutive championship matches in a row before that, and another 10 before losing the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final to Mayo.

All in all, Dublin have already brought up their ‘fifty’ this decade, winning 50 out of 54 championship matches since defeat in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final by eventual champions Cork.

Although Donegal inflicted the largest loss – albeit out of that very small sample size of two! – Mayo have been the most consistent challengers to the Dubs’ supremacy.

Aside from their three-point victory in that 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, the westerners drew with Dublin at the same stage in 2015, took them to a final replay a year later, and only lost that by the minimum margin. Dublin also edged the 2017 final by a mere point against Mayo.

Yet since then the tightest tussle that Jim Gavin’s fabulous team has been in came at Healy Park last year, when they emerged as three-point victors over Tyrone in phase two of the inaugural ‘Super Eights’.

The worry for everyone else is that the Dubs are simply getting better and better.

It says something when opponents are praised for ‘putting it up to Dublin’ after a 13-point defeat, as Cork were last weekend.

Understandably, Dublin have found it (relatively) tougher going in the All-Ireland series, but that 5-18 to 1-17 win over Cork was their second biggest winning margin on the national stage, surpassed only by their 14-point hammering of Roscommon in the ‘dead rubber’ phase three game last year.

In Leinster, for what it’s worth (which isn’t very much), Dublin have won 21 of their last 25 matches by double-digit margins. The exceptions were the nine-point win in the 2017 final against Kildare, a seven-point victory over Meath in the 2013 decider, a win by a goal against the Royals in the 2012 provincial final, and a four-point victory over Wexford in that year’s semi-final.

Even including their closer contests in Leinster in 2011 – wins by eight-, one-, and three-point margins – makes for an average margin of victory of almost 14 points over 28 games.

After their All-Ireland breakthrough in 2011, their hardest won ‘Sam’ triumph was in 2016. Leinster was still easy - even though they met three of the stronger counties from that province, they beat Laois by 11 points, Meath by 10, and Westmeath by 15.

On the All-Ireland stage though, after a five-point quarter-final win over Donegal they edged past Kerry by two points in the semi-final and only survived in the final against Mayo thanks to two own goals before squeaking the replay by the minimum margin. Their average winning margin that season was ‘only’ 6.29 points – and just two over four All-Ireland matches.

Since then, though, only Mayo have really troubled them. Take that 2017 Final out of the equation and Dublin’s average winning margin in the All-Ireland series has been an incredible nine points. Nine.

Hopes have been raised by Dublin conceding more scores in All-Ireland games last year, 5-72, an average of 17.4 points against them over the five matches, compared to exactly 14 in their three games in 2017 and 16.25 over their four matches in both of the 2015 and 2016 post-Leinster series.

However, their own scoring returns have been increasing too. Yes, Cork scored 20 (1-17) – but Dublin notched 33 (5-18).

Last year they averaged 24.8 points per game over five All-Ireland matches, up from 21.67 the previous season, and significantly higher than the 18.25 of 2016 and the 20.25 from 2015.

Their winning streak now stands at 19 matches. Only a fool would bet against them making that 20 against Roscommon this weekend, and few would put much money on them not extending their unbeaten run to 36 later this year.

Dublin 2011-19 Championship record:

P W D L F A

54 50 2 2 98-975 (1,269) 34-653 (755)

Average winning margin: 9.52 points

Unbeaten run: 32 games

Winning streak: 19 games

 

Venue Croke Park unless stated otherwise:

2011

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-16 Laois 0-11

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 1-12 Kildare 1-11

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-12 Wexford 1-12

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 0-22 Tyrone 0-15

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-8 Donegal 0-6

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

For: 5-82 (97) [average 16.167]

Against: 3-66 (75) [average 12.5]

Average score superiority: 3.67

All-Ireland margin: 3.33

 

2012

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 2-22 Louth 0-12

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 2-11 Wexford 1-10

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-13 Meath 1-13

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-12 Laois 0-12

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-16 Mayo 0-19

For: 7-74 (95) [average 19]

Against: 2-66 (72) [average 14.4]

Average score superiority: 4.6

All-Ireland margin: 0

 

2013

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-9

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 4-16 Kildare 1-9

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-16 Cork 0-14

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14

For: 13-99 (138) [average 23]

Against: 5-71 (86) [average 14.33]

Average score superiority: 8.67

All-Ireland margin: 4.33

 

2014

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 2-21 Laois 0-16

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 2-25 Wexford 1-12

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 3-20 Meath 1-10

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 2-22 Monaghan 0-11

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-17 Donegal 3-14

For: 9-105 (132) [average 26.4]

Against: 5-63 (78) [average 15.6]

Average score superiority: 10.8

All-Ireland margin: 5.5

 

2015

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 4-25 Longford 0-10

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 5-18 Kildare 0-14

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-13 Westmeath 0-6

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 2-23 Fermanagh 2-15

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-15

All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay: Dublin 3-15 Mayo 1-14

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 0-12 Kerry 0-9

For: 18-118 (172) [average 24.57]

Against: 4-83 (95) [average 13.57]

Average score superiority: 11

All-Ireland margin: 4.5

 

2016

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 2-21 Laois 2-10 (Nowlan Park)

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-21 Meath 0-11

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-19 Westmeath 0-10

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-15 Donegal 1-10

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-22 Kerry 2-14

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 2-9 Mayo 0-15

All-Ireland SFC Final replay: Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

For: 8-122 (146) [average 20.86]

Against: 6-84 (102) [average 14.57]

Average score superiority: 6.29

All-Ireland margin: 2

 

2017

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 0-19 Carlow 0-7 (Portlaoise)

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 4-29 Westmeath 0-10

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 2-23 Kildare 1-17

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 0-11

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16

For: 10-124 (154) [average 25.67]

Against: 2-73 (79) [average 13.167]

Average score superiority: 12.5

All-Ireland margin: 7.67

 

2018

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 4-25 Wicklow 1-11 (Portlaoise)

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 2-25 Longford 0-12

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 1-25 Laois 0-10

All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, phase 1: Dublin 2-15 Donegal 0-16

All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, phase 2: Dublin 1-14 Tyrone 0-14 (Healy Park)

All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, phase 3: Dublin 4-24 Roscommon 2-16

All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 1-24 Galway 2-12

All-Ireland SFC Final: Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 1-14

For: 17-169 (220) [average 27.5]

Against: 6-105 (123) [average 15.375]

Average score superiority: 12.125

All-Ireland margin: 7.4

 

2019

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 5-21 Louth 0-10 (Portlaoise)

Leinster SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-26 Kildare 0-11

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin 1-17 Meath 0-4

All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, phase 1: Dublin 5-18 Cork 1-17

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, phase 2: Dublin ? Roscommon ?

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, phase 3: Dublin ? Tyrone ? (Healy Park)

For: 11-82 (115) [average 28.75]

Against: 1-42 (45) [average 11.25]

Average score superiority: 17.5

All-Ireland margin: 13 (so far)

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