It has been fair to say that after the dizzy heights of finally capturing their first Sam Maguire in 16 years, Dublin’s footballers have come back to down to Earth with a bang.
On the surface, a poor Allianz National Football League campaign came to an end last Sunday with a disappointing defeat to Cork. But how bad was the League campaign for the Boys in Blue?
Their powerhouse target man, Eoghan O’Gara, a man graced not only with fearless brawn and a footballing brain, was injured again. It always seems just as O’Gara puts a string of good performances together, injury comes back to haunt him, as it has many times in his career.
Large parts of the campaign were played without the brilliant Brogan brothers, the men who spearheaded Gilroy’s team to victory last September.
And for all Pat Gilroy’s experimentation in the League, Dublin scored the most points and the most goals in their division. The manager has also rewarded great club performance by up-and-coming players, like Johnny Cooper, with significant game time. They, in turn, have rewarded the manager’s faith by some eye-catching performances on the field.
Now is the time when players must take stock of the successes and failures of the League campaign and work towards the ultimate prize: the Sam Maguire.
Dublin only needs to look into history to see that poor League campaigns have led to the heady heights of victory in the September sun. In 1995, they were relegated from Division of the League and yet, just a few months later, won Gaelic Football’s ultimate prize. Even the mighty Kerry, had a poor League campaign in 2008 and yet went on to defend their All-Ireland crown.
It would be very foolish to believe that Dublin is a spent force just yet. Mistakes were made in the League, granted, but they have shown their considerable firepower, even with their best scorers missing. Their strength in depth is evident for all to see and Gilroy’s new pressure/counterattack style is clearly effective.
If Gilroy can smooth out the mistakes made in the League, the Dubs look a very dangerous prospect come the summer months. They are a wounded animal right now but that is when they can be most dangerous. If they replicate last year’s form and retain Sam, then the League campaign will be but a distant memory.