GAA Football

'Like everything else, they'll come and move on - the rest of us just have to wait until that time comes'

Dublin boss Dessie Farrell and Cavan's Mickey Graham at the end of Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final, which the defending champions won by 15 points. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

THE better the performance, the greater the dismay. Weird, isn’t it? These are strange times alright but with every double-figure victory Dublin post, enthusiasm for the Championship – and others in years to come - seems to sag a little more.

Dessie Farrell’s men were brilliant in dispatching Cavan on Saturday night, but it barely even felt as though they got out of third gear. The Ulster champions gave it all they had, and posed questions at times, yet still ended up on the end of a 15-point defeat - in an All-Ireland semi-final.

You can’t but admire the huge worth ethic, the skill base, the general brilliance, but there is worry. Tomas O Se talked about five in-a-row becoming 10 in-a-row in the RTE studio after the game; it would take a brave person to back against this right now.

As a consequence, it is the Dubs’ dominance of the football landscape, and not just Saturday’s opponents, that dictated so much of the post-match conversation at an eerily quiet Croke Park.

Even among their own ranks, there were no celebrations, no fists pumping. This was strictly business and Farrell, who took over from Jim Gavin last year, wasn’t about to discuss wider concerns emanating from his county’s remarkable run of success.

“To be honest, I don't concern myself with it,” he said.

“As a manager of a team, engaging in that kind of thing is only a distraction. What I can say is when you get to All-Ireland final stages as this Dublin team have done over the last number of years, on several occasions there has only been a bounce of a ball in it.

“It would be very presumptious to think about anything other than in two weeks' time.”

Asked if he felt those debates were taking away from Dublin’s achievements, again Farrell wasn’t taking the bait.

“That's for others to decide and make a judgment call. We are just going about our business,” he replied.

“In a lot of ways it has been a very challenging year for people around the country, it has been well documented. It is no different for the players, they have struggled with the challenges of a very long season, massive disruption, massive uncertainty.

“The lads have applied themselves brilliantly, knuckled down when they have been asked to and I am happy for them. They are here on merit.”

While Farrell adopted an insular approach, defeated Cavan boss Mickey Graham tried his best to inspire some hope that all was not lost.

The Breffnimen have provided one of the stories of this Championship campaign, their Ulster triumph sparking an outpouring of emotion across a football-mad county starved of success in recent decades.

Graham hopes they are only at the beginning of something special. The gap they have to make up to mix it with the very best, though, was evidenced as Dublin cruised across the line.

“Ah look there's lots of work to be done,” he said.

“We've still a lot of catching up to do on the conditioning end of things. We've done a lot of work to get to where we are, we went about that two years ago when we employed a full-time athletic development coach in Cavan.

“We're only starting to see the fruits of it now but it will take another couple of years before that, plus the type of footballer that's required to play it. People talk about the quality of footballer that Dublin have and they talk about the good players and stuff, but their work ethic, when they didn't have the ball, how quickly they wanted to get it back...

“That's what we need to get into our game and every other team that's gone before us probably. They’ve raised the bar and it’s up to every other county in Ireland to get up to that standard. We can make complaints about funding and facilities but it’s up to everybody else to raise their own standards.

“We’ve seen first hand what they produced tonight, we’ll look back and say ‘how do we get there?’”

Cavan aren’t the only ones who have asked themselves that question over the past decade. With so many other potential challengers falling short of the mark at provincial level this year – Kerry, Tyrone and Donegal among them – Mayo are the last men standing in a fortnight’s time.

James Horan’s side remains a work in progress, and the Dubs will start as huge favourites once more. Another convincing win will see the same debate rear up again, but Graham was keen to shed some perspective on Dublin’s dominance.

“I believe in sport and on a given day anybody can beat anybody.

“It’s a once in a generation team there. Like everything else, they’ll come and move on. The rest of us just have to wait until that time comes and try and pick up the scraps after, let’s be honest.

“When it’s going to come, I don’t know, but it will. In every sport there is a team that comes around every so often and will dominate like they have dominated but sooner or later somebody is going to break that cycle.

“We had our opportunity, we failed so [it's up to] somebody else to stand up and take them on.”

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GAA Football