Pace, tactics and organisation, that is. Taken in an agricultural context, the same three letters stand for power take off – the means by which most farm machinery is driven. In the case of the Dublin footballers, though, it was a matter of power take on which won the day for them. Now read on…
In the build up to the All Ireland final, the only way yours truly could split the two protagonists was to reason that the strength of the metropolitans bench might eventually see them hold sway. All season, it was latecomers like Dean Rock, Denis Bastick and Kevin McManomon who harvested the last few the last few acres of yield from the field.
And it transpired again. But there was more to it than that. The three most obvious factors being the first three words of this column. As certain Mayo players began to visibly tire, Dublin’s relentless pace – most in the guise of Michael D. Macauley on the day – allowed them to repel every valiant surge Mayo mustered.
Then there were the tactics, from the ‘methodical’ manner in which Dublin tackled in the closing stages, to Stephen Cluxton – possibly for the first time this season – perfecting his kick outs. Which was made possible by the extraordinary levels of organisation that have become the benchmark of Jim Gavin’s tenure.
Now, it must be said that the Mayo management may have done things differently if given another chance. Taking off Alan Freeman – especially that early – was curios. As was withdrawing Seamus O’Shea when Aidan seemed to be struggling the more of the two. Though perhaps the biggest area they could’ve dealt with better was that of the Dublin kick outs.
Gavin, obviously, again expertly deployed his reinforcements, but, with the space afforded to the likes of Macauley, Bastick and Rock at restarts meant that there was only going to be one outcome. In truth, Meath were the only team all year to in any way curb the influence of the Dublin kick outs.
Somebody asked me in the days preceding the game how it was expected to go and, as well as in a broad sense underlining the importance of the Dublin bench, the point was further emphasised by opining that Dublin would win if Bastick was brought on early enough.
Previewing the game, the point was made his influence – as an ‘old style’ midfielder – had been incalculable to the blue voyage. Even allowing for how mammoth it had been as the crop continued to ripen, on harvest day, his was the blade that cut down the gold enabling it to be pocketed.
He stayed true to the depiction as one from the old days in doing so as well. Moments after Andy Moran had reawakened western dreams with a beautifully crafted goal, the Synge Street player charged down the centre and teed up Bernard Brogan for what was surely – psychologically at least – more than half way to a knock out blow. Another sign on a day of signs. The most obvious of which, maybe, was that Mayo were nowhere near in front at half time. Especially considering the degree of dominance James Horan’s charges had enjoyed in the first half.
Ger Brennan scoring a point at all – let alone with his weaker right boot – was another sign that fate favoured those in two shades of blue. As was – for anyone of a superstitious nature – Mayo winning the curtain raising minor final. Seldom if ever does anyone collect the two pots of honey on offer during showpiece days.
The point was made several times during the season – and in the aftermath of their most important victory – that Dublin have taken things to a new level. Maybe, indeed, it’s been like that since they last won in 2011. It’s up to every other team to at least strive to reach that plateau. Only by putting similar structures to those embedded in the capital – and elsewhere – in place will the gap be bridged.
So, what does the future hold? Well, given the strength in depth that prevails in Dublin it’s possible they could dominate for several years. Evidence has proven that putting titles back to back is immensely difficult. But, such is the depth of at Gavin’s disposal at present he could readily implement the changes necessary to keep the thing fresh. There’s been a fair bit of player turnover from 2011 as it is.
And what for Mayo? In one sense, you wonder how they can keep coming back. Yet, as their youngsters proved in the curtain raiser on the biggest day, there’s plenty of talent coming through. They’re likely to be a force for a long time. Kerry always raise their game against the Dubs.
Cork, Galway and Meath may make bigger impacts going forward. All concerned would, admittedly, have to make even greater improvement than they already have to get to where Dublin are. Trying to do that is what keeps bringing folk back to the well.