There’s only limited merit in assessing greatness

#Dublin #GAA

How many of you remember the 1988 film Coming To America? Most specifically, the barber shop scene therein where Akeem – the Prince of Zamunda – happens upon a debate between the proprietor of the premises and several patrons as to who was the better boxer, Joe Lewis or Rocky Marciano.

Essentially, such comparisons have no definitive outcome. Primarily as the two protagonists operated in different eras. For what it’s worth, my instinct would be to feel that Marciano would just about shade it. Only because he never lost whereas Lewis ended up on the wrong end of three bouts.

Such pondering, however, only serves to devalue the considerable achievements of both pugilists. There’s only limited merit in assessing greatness. That was to the foremost of thoughts whilst perusing the many gushing, admittedly wholly merited, tributes being feted upon Dublin following their retention of Sam Maguire.

That they are the pick of now is set in stone. Yet comparisons with some of their forerunners in the famed blue hardly stack up. Their achievements may be similar materially in terms of medals collected. Football then and now is hardly the same though. It never is in differing times. That maxim is applicable to any sport. Or indeed matters that are not sporting.

Much of Gaelic football nowadays may resemble what abounded when the older Brogans and Brian Mullins and Tony Hanahoe et al were in their pomp. In the case of Dublin themselves however, much of the football they play seems more akin to what was dispensed by the Meath team – and their luckless Dublin counterparts – of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Not even that theory is beyond having holes picked in it however. Brian Fenton may give off the air of an old style midfielder. Not dissimilar, in fact, to his fellow Raheny native, Ciaran Whelan. Big Ciaran soared the skies for many summers but never harvested autumn gold. Fenton has never lost a championship game with Dublin. So much for comparing eras.

Dust would hardly have had time to form on this season’s triumph – let alone settle – when the pairings for next year’s summer jousts were revealed. And there were no moth balls near them when two tiresome fads poked their respective heads above the parapet: taking Dublin out of Croke Park will improve the chances of them being usurped, and the Dubs themselves present the facade of being fearful of what awaits.

The fine people in the lands of scallions and strawberries have produced many top class performers across many sports. From Wexford teams comprising Mattie Forde and Ciaran Lyng, to Carlow ensembles containing members of the great Eire Og club. The counties also gave residence to two of the greatest stars of Irish rugby in modern times – Gordon D’Arcy and Sean O’Brien. Likewise in horse racing, in the guise of Aidan O’Brien, Jim Bolger, Mick Fitzgerald and the Mullins dynasty.

All that notwithstanding, expecting folk from either of these grand places to conquer the champions is beyond fanciful. Playing it on the banks of the Slaney or atop Mount Leinster wouldn’t make a scintilla of difference either.

Kildare may fancy themselves as best placed to next have a crack at guillotining Jim Gavin’s charges following the proliferation of a number of consecutively talented underage teams. However, the hope would be that the sternest resistance to the ongoing coronation would arise closer to home.

That is not to shirk the challenge facing Andy McEntee and his entourage. It would be remiss, mind you, not to acknowledge that, at various and inappropriate times, lady and for that matter lord luck deserted Mick O’Dowd and Sean Barry in their respective roles as senior and U-21 coaches.

A turn in the road may be afoot nonetheless. Though ultimately luckless against Kildare thereafter, the significance of the victory achieved by Barry Callaghan’s minors over Dublin shouldn’t be diluted. Perhaps, on occasion, too much is read into what Dublin are doing, yet theirs are the standards everyone strives toward.

Instinct is that a corner has been turned. Such feelings abound, for all that, at a time many things in other places seem exactly as they were. Witness Meath’s Leinster SFC perspective opponents, Louth or Wicklow, being exactly as they were a year ago. Portions of the delicacies served up by the draw in the other provinces occupy the same places on the menu as was the case last term as well.

All of which again underlines gut feeling that the fixtures structure in its current form is wholly dysfunctional. Still, as was recently opined to someone who would now be considered part of the inner sanctum – whatever that is – that, while a potential joust against those from the small county or the Garden of Ireland may seem light years away, anything that resembles something to look forward to has to be clung to.

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