OPINION: Dublin are not in decline

Defeat in the League final does not indicate that the All-Ireland champions are deteriorating

BY Sinéad Farrell 16:36 Wednesday 12 April 2017, 16:36 12 Apr 2017

©INPHO/James Crombie

After 36 unbeaten League and Championship games, Dublin were finally defeated at the weekend.

It was a phenomenal run that was destined to hit a road block at some point. Even the All Blacks couldn't go on winning forever.

It's human. It happens. No need to reach for the pen to write their obituary just yet. 

But what should be perceived as a minor disruption in Dublin's form, has somehow evolved into suspicion that the All-Ireland champions are entering a period of demise.

This is the common narrative that follows such results, and is partly fueled by a human desire to see the mighty collapse. The notion that Dublin have become beatable again, instills hope in those from the chasing counties.

But Dublin were always vulnerable to defeat. They were never unbeatable to begin with and some of their wins were by thread bare margins. They were just clinical enough on those occasions to get the win, that any threat to their superiority is quickly forgotten about.

Aside from the convincing wins at provincial level, Dublin have consistently been challenged when it comes to the All-Ireland championship.

Mayo brought them to a replay in last year's All-Ireland final, and but for a Cillian O'Connor free that trailed wide in the final moments of the second game, the battle would have continued into extra-time.

Similarly, Kerry came to within two points of Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. Indeed, Kerry's two goals in that game were primarily due to defensive blunders by Dublin, but these facts merely reinforce the truth that Dublin are flawed, just like every other team.

Throughout the Division 1 campaign, Dublin have been tested. What exactly is new about that? They're in the top division, surrounded by teams who will most likely be contesting for provincial and All-Ireland honours later this year.

Of course, they uncharacteristically slipped into a five-point deficit at one point against Kerry in the decider last weekend. But the fact that they clawed the contest back to a one-point game before the end against an old rival, demonstrates that their engines are still roaring.

And Dean Rock's placed free brought Dublin to within the width of a post of extending their unbeaten run until at least extra-time.

Also, Dublin were without some key players in personnel. Jonny Cooper didn't play due to injury, and Diarmuid Connolly was dismissed from the field with a black card shortly before half-time. He had already kicked a point at that stage and would undoubtedly have tagged on a few more before the end.

That's not to definitively say that Dublin would have won the game, but it surely would have troubled Kerry's defence for the rest of the afternoon.

Image: Jack McCaffrey and Rory O'Carroll in action for Dublin in 2013. Photo credit: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Dublin have managed to survive without their regulars in the past, following the departures of defenders Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey, who has since returned to the panel. But while they are a resourceful unit, that have a rich conveyor belt of talent flowing in, defeat has never been that far away from them.

Against Kerry, they finally ran out of answers. After all the occasions when they managed to figure their way out of a crisis, this was the conundrum they couldn't tease out.

But does that mean we should prepare for another barren period in the capital? Certainly not. One loss after that many league and championship victories does not make them susceptible to such things.

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