GAA Football

Dublin footballers (but not Celtic's) aiming for Kerry's legendary status

Dublin's footballers are aiming to equal a GAA record - held by Kerry - of going 34 League and Championship games unbeaten. Pic Seamus Loughran

IF you know your history (or can use the internet)…

The term `legendary’ can be over-used in sport, and there’s a reluctance to seriously apply it to current teams and players.

Yet Dublin footballers have to be close to inclusion in that category, especially if they stretch their unbeaten run to a GAA record-equalling tally of 34.

The association footballers of Celtic Football Club have already reached that figure, at least in domestic competition, but their streak is not being regarded particularly highly.

Celtic’s current stretch of 34 domestic games unbeaten since the start of the season has eclipsed the Lisbon Lions’ record of 27 in their ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1966-67.

Celtic are receiving very little praise through no fault of their own but largely because their competitors – notably the returned Rangers - aren’t very good.

Clearly this Celtic not in the same class as Jock Stein’s legendary side but their domestic form this season shouldn’t be sniffed at.

They’ve won all but one of those 34 games in Scotland, and even in the draw they were only denied by an 89th minute equaliser away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Brendan Rodgers has got them scoring almost three goals per game on average while conceding only a goal every other game (on average).

They might not be up against a great deal but they are still disposing of the opposition in some style.

Interestingly, the GAA record is the same as Celtic’s – 33 wins and just one draw.

It will come as little surprise that Kerry hold that record, dating back to teams from the late Twenties and early Thirties. Their sole draw came against Kildare in Naas in Division A of the League in November 1930, a 0-2 apiece draw.

The Lilywhites were Kerry’s arch-rivals in that era, winning six consecutive Leinster titles between 1926 and 1931, leading on to five All-Ireland finals, winning in 1927 (against Kerry) and 1928 but losing three deciders to the Kingdom, in 1926, 1929, and 1931. Kildare also lost the 1927-28 and 1928-29 League Finals to Kerry.

By one of those quirks of sporting fate, it’s down to the Kingdom that Dublin must go, on Saturday March 18, as they aim to maintain their long unbeaten run.

That will be almost exactly 84 years to the day that Kerry’s streak was broken, losing their third-match in a four-team Division ‘A’ to Meath in Navan on March 19, 1933; the Royals went on to win that National Football League.

Kerry’s record came about by winning four consecutive All-Irelands Senior Football Championships and three National Football Leagues between 1928-29 and 1932.

That run might well have been longer but for some anomalies – the National Football League wasn’t held in 1929-30 and, if the records I’ve checked are correct, Kerry only played one Munster SFC match in both the 1930 and 1931 seasons, the finals, both won comfortably against Tipperary. The Kingdom would surely have won quarter-finals and semi-finals in Munster if they’d had to play them.

Somewhat astonishingly, Kerry did lose the 1928 Munster semi-final to Tipperary (1-7 to 2-3), stopping their first attempt at a provincial six-in-a-row.

That was the Kingdom’s only provincial defeat between 1923 and 1943 (they didn’t appear to compete in the 1935 competition) otherwise the winning streak might have been even longer, including their eight victories in their 1927-28 National Football League triumph.

Dublin’s own unbeaten run began after a loss in the Kingdom, in round three of the League two years ago.

Will it end there too?

Having drawn just three out of 30 games – the start of their streak, against Tyrone, in round four of the 2015 League, then in that year’s All-Ireland semi-final and last year’s All-Ireland final, both against Mayo, they seemed to wobbling recently.

They were fairly fortunate to carve out another draw against Tyrone, and then had to share the points up in Donegal in rounds two and three respectively.

However, their destruction of Mayo, the team that arguably should have won the All-Ireland last year, sent out a serious message.

Dublin won by 10 points – and without Jonny Cooper, Cian O’Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan, Paul Mannion, and Cormac Costello while Paddy Andrews, Paul Flynn, and Kevin McManamon only came on as subs.

Some of those names will go down in GAA folklore, even if the Dubs don’t have nicknames of the quality of those Kerrymen in the past - `Purty’, ‘Pedlar’, `Bruddie’, `Bracker’, and `Roundy’ in their ranks.

Shortening a name and then adding ‘o’ to the end of it simply isn’t good enough for legends. More work for the Dubs to do.

* WE often hear managers of smaller English soccer clubs demanding to be treated the same as `the big boys’.

If that applies to media scrutiny then they should be careful what they wish for.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche complained about Swansea’s injury-time winner on Saturday, headed in after an apparent push on a defender by the Welsh club’s striker Fernando Llorente.

“It’s disappointing to have a big decision go against you…A bitter pill to swallow for the players,” moaned the gravel-voiced manager.

No mention by him, nor any questions from the interviewer, about his side’s opening goal though, which came from a penalty – awarded for a handball by Burnley striker

Sam Vokes!

Referees get criticised, and perhaps the officials should have noticed that the ball was touched by a bare arm while the two nearest Swansea defenders were wearing long sleeves (although admittedly those sleeves were white, as was the handling arm).

Yet the handling – and not admitting – is cheating just as much as diving is, especially as Vokes has recent ‘form’ for this, having deliberately used his forearm to control the ball before scoring a late winner against Leicester City.

That defeat contributed to Claudio Raneiri losing his job. Dyche should consider that – and what the reaction would be if, say, a Chelsea or Manchester United forward twice deliberately handled the ball to earn goals.

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