GAA Football

Dublin and Kerry's historic dominance only increasing

Dublin's Jack McCaffrey and Kerry's Sean O'Shea could be clashing in All-Ireland Finals on a regular basis.
Pic Philip Walsh

DUBLIN and Kerry, Kerry and Dublin.

We better get used to this, is the message. Dublin’s recent total domination appears set to be augmented by the Kingdom re-taking their place at the top table too.

Well, we really should have got used to this a while ago.

What Dublin have achieved in this decade is unprecedented, of course. Besides the first five-in-a-row they’ve become the first county to win seven senior football titles in one decade.

Yet when the focus is widened out slightly, to the ‘qualifier era’, which began with the opening of ‘the back door’ in the 2001 season, the contrasts with the past are not so stark.

Kerry and Dublin have almost always been dominant, winning nearly half of the football All-Irelands in the pre-qualifier times, 54 out of 113 (close to 48 per cent).

That success rate has increased by almost a third over the past 19 seasons, though, edging up towards them winning two out of every three finals between them – 12 out of 19 so far (63 per cent).

Given that 2011 ended a 16-year wait for the Dubs even to get into an All-Ireland SFC Final, never mind win ‘Sam’, their seven final appearances in this decade also represent their total in the new football format – making for Dublin involvement in 37 per cent of those 19 finals.

Yet before 2001, Dublin had played in 35 senior finals, or 31 per cent of the 113 deciders (not counting replays), so that’s not a major jump upwards (around a 20 per cent increase).

Indeed Kerry’s involvement in finals has increased much more significantly.

The Kingdom played in 49 finals before 2001, or more than 43 per cent. Since then, they’ve been in 11 finals out of 19 – 58 per cent, a rise of just over a third (33.5 per cent up).

Obviously Dublin’s win percentage is 100 per cent in one regard, given their unbeaten record in seven finals (stretching to eight deciders since Down defeated them in 1994).

Of the 19 years under consideration, they’ve ended up as champs in 37 per cent. That’s almost double their record from the pre-qualifier era, when they emerged triumphant on average once ever five years (22 times from 113 finals, 19.5 per cent).

Yet even given their three defeats to Dublin in this decade, Kerry’s win percentage has hardly dropped.

Five wins out of 19 years is more than 26 per cent; in the pre-qualifier era Kerry won 32 times out of 113, or just over 28 per cent.

The increasing involvement of Dublin and/or Kerry in All-Ireland SFC finals has been occurring for some time.

In the pre-qualifier era just under two-thirds of all finals involved either Kerry and/or Dublin – 73 out of 113 (just under 65 per cent).

That has risen to almost 80 per cent from 2001 onwards, with just four finals without either of the big two: the first of the qualifier era, Galway-Meath, the first between two teams from the same province (Tyrone-Armagh), then Cork-Down in 2010, and most recently Donegal-Mayo in 2012.

What’s more, the incidence of Dublin-Kerry deciders has gone up. It used to be under 10 per cent, with only 11 final meetings out of 113.

However, that has risen to three out of 19 (nearly 16 per cent), indeed three out of the last nine (33 per cent), and that figure is likely to keep on rising due to the ‘Super Eights’ format.

No matter how many tweaks there are to venues and game order, the likelihood is that the Dubs and the Kingdom will both be involved in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals for years to come – and that both have a good chance of winning All-Ireland semi-finals.

Both will be favoured to win their groups, keeping them apart in the last four. Or even if they end up in the same group, they’re likely to progress, therefore going into different All-Ireland semi-finals.

Few would bet against one of those two counties collecting ‘Sam’ next year, or for several seasons to come.

Perceptions about who should be in All-Ireland SFC Finals were perhaps skewed in the 90s, a decade when there were seven different winners, including breakthrough triumphs for Donegal and Derry and the end of a 32-year drought for Galway.

Dublin and Kerry still featured in four of those finals in the Nineties – but only won two, in 1995 and 1997.

During the Kerry ‘Golden Years’ from 1974 to 1986 inclusive, the Dubs and the Kingdom were in the finals for each of those seasons, for 13 consecutive years.

Fallow periods then followed for both, with the big two only getting into five of the next 14 finals, winning three, including Dublin’s dubious victory in 1995.

However, neither county is likely to go back into the wilderness.

They are ‘domestically’ dominant, with provincial championships now providing the platform for All-Ireland success.

Six of the first 10 All-Ireland titles in the qualifier era were won through the ‘back door’, including the first (Galway 2001), and two of Tyrone’s – but none since Cork in 2010….

Instead, Dublin have won the last nine Leinsters (and 14 out of the last 15), while Kerry have won seven Munsters in a row.

Dublin and Kerry, Kerry and Dublin.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be…

Say your prayers, folks.

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