As this Sunday’s hotly anticipated meeting between old rivals Kerry and Dublin approaches, all eyes turn towards the capital and the hallowed ground of Croke Park, the scene of the epic battle.
The boys in blue will enter unfamiliar territory this Sunday as they look forward to a first All-Ireland appearance since they last lifted the Sam Maguire Cup in 1995.
However, while the plight of the senior stars has dominated recent headlines, the capital’s young guns have other ideas as they go in search of Dublin’s first Minor title since 1984.
The metropolitans will face a stern challenge in the shape of a confident Tipperary side, the surprise package in this year’s final.
It has been an impressive year on all fronts for the capital’s GAA stars with the Dublin hurlers also asserting their position as a force to be reckoned at Minor, u-21 and Senior level. The footballers will be hoping to go one further this weekend and secure a double All-Ireland victory with a full capacity crowd set to descend on Croke Park this Sunday.
This victory, coupled with the Dublin seniors first All-Ireland title in sixteen years would see the boys in blue completing the double for the first time since 1985.
However, Dublin will not have it all their own way as the boys from the Premier County arrive in the capital, their sights set on the greatest of Minor accolades as they aim to become the first Tippeary u-18 side to achieve All-Ireland football glory since 1934.
The boys from Munster last lifted the Tom Markham cup in 1934 when they were awarded the title following their semi-final win over Mayo. The other penultimate contestants – Dublin and Tyrone – were both disqualified.
The history between the two sides stretches back to their last encounter in 1984, when a dominant Dublin side, which included Aussie rules star Jim Stynes, ran out convincing winners by an eight point margin.
However, Dublin haven’t won an All-Ireland minor title since losing the 1988 decider to Kerry and the 2001 and 2003 finals to Tyrone and Laois after replays.
Hopes are high in the capital that their long wait for an 11th All-Ireland in the under 18 grade will finally come to an end on Sunday. They have enjoyed a comprehensive run to the final, under the guidance of Dessie Farrell – who played in the 1988 final defeat to Kerry – with the exception of a tough Galway outing.
While Dublin struggled to get past a dogged Galway side in their semi-final meeting, Tipperary became the surprise package of the 2011 final as they beat a fancied Roscommon side who had previously edged out the tribesmen in the Connacht Final.
Tipp, who won their one and only Tom Markham Cup back in 1934, are reaping the rewards of a successful underage policy which is the envy of many counties.
They captured their first ever Munster under 21 football title last year and followed it this year with their first provincial minor success since 1995. They did not have it all their own way however and were forced to come from 11 points down to beat Kerry in sensational fashion before easing to a 3-11 to 1-9 victory over Cork in the Munster final.
Despite their provincial success, Tipp’s ambitious manager David Power set his sights on adding the All-Ireland crown and they are now just 60 minutes away from achieving that goal after All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final wins over Meath and Roscommon respectively.
Dublin were installed as All-Ireland favourites after an impressive Leinster campaign which saw them record landslide wins over Westmeath, Kildare and Meath, and dethrone holders Longford with five points to spare in Pearse Park.
They eased past Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final – holding them scoreless in the first half – but things did not go according to plan in their semi-final meeting with Galway. The metropolitans required the brilliance of dual star Ciaran Kilkenny to bail them out after they conceded an unanswered 1-4 at the start of the second half.
Tipp go into this final as the underdogs, but have a winning pedigree going back to their juvenile days and won’t be fazed by the task in hand.
Meanwhile, Dublin manager Dessie Farrell has called on the Blue Army to get to Croke Park before the hotly anticiapted senior clash on Sunday to support his charges as they attempt to capture the first All-Ireland MFC title for the capital since 1984.
“Our support has been immense all year and they have made a huge difference in both our games in Croker so far against Meath and Galway. Both the management and players would love to see similar levels of support this Sunday,” added Farrell.
The Na Fianna man and former All-Ireland senior winner refuses to underestimate this Sunday’s opponents and knows that his side will be tested to their absolute limit.
“Tipperary have been hugely impressive to date and they play a lovely brand of football. It’s definitely going to be a great occasion for all the lads and it should be an excellent game of football.
“The lads are straining at the leash to get out there but unfortunately waiting until Sunday is part and parcel of the whole process.”
Farrell and his coaching team have reported no late injuries to his side as they prepare for Sunday’s clash with Munster champions Tipperary.
David Power has kept faith with the side that started in their semi-final victory over Roscommon and the same 15 will line out for Tipperary against Dublin at 1.15pm in Croke Park this Sunday.
Tipperary – Evan Comerford; Niall O’Sullivan, John Meagher, Conor O’Sullivan; Colin O’Riordan, Dylan Fitzelle, Seamus Kennedy; Stephen O’Brien, Ian Fahey; Greg Henry, Philip Quirke, Bill Maher; Liam McGrath, Michael Quinlivan, TJ Ryan.
Dublin – TBC