Dublin, the beautiful juggernaut. What else can be written about the Dublin footballers? Envied by many, admired by most, respected by all. The boys in blue have been on an incredible journey since ending their All-Ireland famine in 2011, hoovering up national honours and individual accolades, including five of the last seven All-Irelands, four of the last five National League titles and 36 All-Stars.
Such is the rich vain of talent in their underage ranks, Jim Gavin’s selection policy has now gone full circle. No longer are the early rounds of the National League simply a chance for younger, up-and-coming players to stake a claim for a starting berth for the summer.
Now it has become the platform for the seasoned veterans to prove they are still worthy. How many times has the evergreen Bernard Brogan togged out for the Dubs in January, since he first carved out his place in the corner?
A man who played his first ever championship match outside of Croke Park only last year. Brogan took his chance against Kildare on Saturday night. He may only have scored once, but during what opposition teams must now dread – Dublin’s notoriously lethal third quarter display – Brogan was fabulous. His movement, trickery and vision showing that he, at 33, is still every bit the marquee forward.
He will need to continue to perform at that level however, if he is to secure that number 15 jersey come the summer, in a squad swollen with full-forward options. Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Kevin McManamon, Paddy Andrews, Eoghan O’Gara, Colm Basquel, Dean Rock and Brogan are all vying for three places and that is without considering the conveyor belt of talent in reserve, such as Ross McGarry who is knocking at the door. Any other county side would welcome just one of the aforementioned players into their starting line-ups with open arms.
Michael Darragh Macauley however, will be cursing his luck. Having been afforded the opportunity to prove he still deserves his sky blue jersey, he had to retire injured early in the second half. This, after what Jim Gavin conceded was a fairly abject display from his team in the first half. It is not inconceivable to think that he might have played his last game for Dublin this year, or even altogether, such is the depth and versatility of the Dublin squad.
There are many that will argue that Dublin are so successful because they are the darlings of the GAA, because they are so well-funded, because Croke Park has become their ‘home’ ground. These arguments are not entirely without merit, but I’ll leave it to John Costello to address those for now. For this writer and for the discerning GAA fans at large, I say long may their journey continue – if it means we continue to enjoy their daring, to marvel at their artistry and to respect the desire and hunger that Gavin somehow extracts from his squad of winners, year after year.