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Highlights on Off The Ball

"If Kerry win that final then they're the team of the decade" - the Kingdom's "Sliding Doors" moment against Tyrone

"How can you view your achievements as superior when you lose to a rival every time you play them...


"If Kerry win that final then they're the team of the decade" - the Kingdom's "Sliding Doors" moment against Tyrone

"How can you view your achievements as superior when you lose to a rival every time you play them?", whether Kerry or Tyrone were the best team of the first decade of the 2000s was the hot topic of debate on this week's Classic Game Club. 

Tommy Rooney, Ger Gilroy and team OTB's resident Kerry man Eoin Sheahan sat down to re-watch Tyrone's victory over the Kingdom in the 2005 All-Ireland Senior Football Final.

It was one of three major victories for Mickey Harte's side against their Munster opponents over the ten-year period and it sealed a second-ever Sam Maguire for The Red Hand.

"The only thing that was up for grabs in this game was team of the decade," claimed Tommy Rooney during the show. "And I'm sorry to hammer that home and I'm sorry to keep going back to it but if Kerry win that final then they're the team of the decade.  The games spanned the whole decade, '03-08', it went right across the ten years.

Ger Gilroy agreed that had Kerry overcome their rivals at Croke Park then the debate over the best team of the period would have ended there and then:

"If Kerry win this game then they go on to do five in-a-row and become the greatest team of all-time. That Kerry team was absolutely sensational. Now if they win that game then maybe (Kieran) Donaghy doesn't get into the team and don't win five in-a-row, I don't know. But what was up for grabs was the title of all-time great team and Tyrone went in and they seized it, they went and they took it.

In defence of his county's legacy in the period, Eoin argued that Kerry's winning record over the ten years is more significant than their head-to-head record with Tyrone.

"Even Eugene McGee, who liked to stick the boot into Kerry time and time again during this era, even said in his report after the game that the team of the decade discussion would take some time to pan out...I don't fully believe that Donaghy meant that Kerry weren't the team of that decade (which he claimed in an OTB roadshow with Ryan McMenamin), it's five All-Irelands to three.

"That for me is the most important metic in all this, of course the Tyrone against Kerry rivalry is an important factor but it's not the be all and end all. This is a decade and not just one year!"


Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE *


Ger accepted that results between the counties is not the only metric to decide who comes out on top, but he emphasised Tyrone's impressive record in the meetings between the sides:

"It's not the be all and end all but it's three-nil to Tyrone, if this was the only match played between them then you'd be like 'ah look it was only one game, they caught Kerry a bit cold but Kerry won more All-Irelands'. I'm sorry but that was the best team of the decade and this was the game where it was up for grabs. Kerry can have no qualms, they came through the front door and had everyone fit, they had Seamus Moyinhan still in the team, they had Dara Ó Cinnéide, you can't have any excuses or complaints.

"It goes back to "Gooch" (Colm Cooper) saying that they couldn't match what Tyrone brought to the games. How can you view your achievements as superior when you lose to a rival every time you play them?"

Tommy further raised the point that Tyrone's achievements in the decade must be seen through the prism of being a breakthrough success:

"Another thing that has be factored into it is the context of the county themselves, how the county views themselves and how the county stands among history. What did Tyrone have before their minor winning teams in the '90s? What did Tyrone have to say 'that's where we want to get to?', I remember reading autobiographies from players of that time and being struck by the underdog nature of the story.

"When you talk about the low points for Tyrone it just shows how human they were as a team. In 2005 Kevin Hughes had left, they'd won their All-Ireland and had been on top of the world. They were dealt that blow with the passing of Cormac McAnallen in 2004. The whole story of the decade is not simply who won the most All-Irelands, like the numbers matter but it's the narrative, the story, Kerry had the chance to do it in 2005, to squash Tyrone and they didn't. Kerry let it go because Tyrone had their mark and Micky Harte had their mark."




Eoin admits that Tyrone were perhaps more motived going into the fixtures than the Kingdom:

"Maybe having a bigger cause is why Tyrone sometimes seemed more up to it in some of the games between the sides, they wanted to prove that previous victories weren't a fluke, that was part of their cause in '05. While Kerry were trying to prove that they're the best team in Ireland and there's a lot more determination to come from Tyrone's cause I would have thought.

"Kerry had low ebbs in the decade as well, that loss to Meath in 2001 was their lowest point of the decade, no question, and '08 was bad as well but you've the first All-Ireland of the decade and the last one and a back-to-back in the middle. Tyrone were an unbelievable team and of course this is a debate but I just think because of what Kerry achieved and because of Tyrone's stumbles, Kerry edge this debate.

"This idea that Tyrone were this frail, old, past their best beast, who were there for the taking is just nonsense. The teams played each other three times over the course of a decade, ten years, ten years! It's only three occasions and spread five years apart those games. Kerry won five All-Irelands, they did back-to-back All-Irelands, something Tyrone were unable to do.

"Cork and Mayo beat Tyrone, what does that say about Tyrone? This whole notion that Kerry get knocked down for beating Cork and Mayo in winning All-Irelands is just unfair and seems weird to me. How come we never analyse where Tyrone fell down across the decade?

"Armagh vastly superior to Cork? I'm not sure about that. A better team sure but Cork got to two All-Irelands and they ended up getting over the line in 2010 which is actually a product of the 2000s. They beat Tyrone in 2009, who were All-Ireland champions at that time. Tyrone scored only six-points against Laois in 2006 when they were All-Ireland champions, one of the most pathetic defences of a title that there's ever been. Dumped out of the Championship when their arses were against the wall. In the following year they come up against Meath, no offence Tommy, and Meath beat them."


Damien Eagers/ SPORTSFILE


Ger meanwhile feels that Tyrone's success is all the more impressive because of the challenge they faced in having to come through the Ulster Championship:

"Primarily Tyrone fell down when they came up against that Armagh team. Their passage to play Kerry involved having to overcome a very, very good team, Armagh were vastly superior to Cork. You have to accept that the Munster Championship is bullshit compared to the Ulster Championship, already it's more difficult to win when coming from their province so the value of any All-Ireland coming out of Ulster, it's more difficult to achieve. The football Championship is structured irrationally because it's based on how the Brits split up the country or how borders were decided because Maeve stole a brown bull.

"For an Ulster county it's simply more difficult to win these and as Tommy says rightly, this is a team who achieved their first All-Irelands, which is a harder thing to do. Coming into the decade Kerry already had a side backboned by All-Ireland winners."

While Eoin's final argument in favour of his home county being the team of the decade is that people simply need to count their medals in the period:

"I'm not saying you can brush off the Championship meetings which the sides had but there are significant other factors at play. That Tyrone team, of course, will be more revered in their county than the Kerry team because of the competition and legacy of teams from other decades. But when you look at it, it's two great groups of players but Kerry edge it...just about."

Who was your gaelic football team of the first ten years of this century? You can watch the lads' debate and relive the 2005 All-Ireland Football final below


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