DUBLIN GAA 2014 SEASON REVIEW.
Well folks its that time of the year when we say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new. It’s also a time when we look back at the memories of the past twelve months good,bad and indifferent. With that in mind I thought I’d reflect on the 2014 season for Dublin Gaa across the four codes.
There was huge excitement and optimism in January for it to be a huge year for all our Dublin teams across all the codes. Dublin Camogie was starting its rebuilding process at Senior level with the hope of the foundations being laid for future successes. The Dublin Junior Premier squad had won the All Ireland title the previous year and were expected to have another huge season and the players coming through the underage squads were extremely talented with many of them expected to be future Senior stars in the making.
Dublin Ladies football had appointed Gregory McGonigle as the new Senior and Under 21 Manager and with his pedigree a big year was envisaged. Again at the underage levels the talent on show was phenomenal and excitement for a big year for all was palpable.
On the men’s side 2014 was expected to be a successful one for both the Hurlers and Footballers. Jim Gavin’s men were reigning All Ireland,Leinster and League Champions and favorites to win all three again. Anthony Daly’s charges were reigning Leinster Champions and were only a puck of the ball away from reaching the previous years All Ireland Final so hopes were high they could go that one step further.
The Dublin Senior men’s footballers got things off to a great start when they retained their league title in April which included a memorable comeback in the semi-final against Cork and then a dominant destruction of Derry in the final. The Hurlers on the other hand had an inconsistent campaign with good wins over Kilkenny and Clare but other results found them fighting relegation with Waterford. Thankfully they retained their division 1a status when they defeated Waterford in Walsh Park in the relegation play-off to end the league on a positive note.
Dublin’s Senior Camogie squad on the first steps of the rebuilding process had a tough league,but the lessons learned about the level they need to reach and the calibre of opposition they would face would definitely stand to them in the coming seasons. The Junior premiers had a great campaign reaching the League Final with a couple of games to spare where they played Westmeath. They had one of those days in the final were everything that could go wrong did go wrong and they lost out on the title to a team they had held scoreless from play earlier in the campaign.
Dublin’s Senior Ladies Footballers had an excellent league going unbeaten through the regular campaign and reaching their their first Division 1 League Final. Their opponents on the day were Cork and unfortunately for the Jackies they had an off day with their normally pinpoint shooting and Cork nicked it on a day when Dublin were the better team.
Before the senior championships got underway it was the turn of the under 21 Squads in Men’s Football and Hurling and Ladies Football. Much was expected from the hurlers but it didn’t quite happen for them and they were beaten in the Leinster Final in Parnell Park by Wexford who went on to contest the All Ireland Final.
The Men’s Footballers under the watchful eye of Dublin Legend Dessie Farrell went all the way lifting the counties third All Ireland title in five years beating a fancied Roscommon team for the second time in the final in three years with a powerful display of attacking football. Once again it showed the rude health that football is in right now in the capital with another raft of stars in the making coming to the fore during the campaign. Players who will surely be knocking on Jim Gavin’s door over the next number of seasons for a senior place.
The Ladies U21 Footballers matched their male counterparts in winning the All Ireland Title and what a campaign it was. Greg McGonigle was in his first year at the helm as the U21 Boss and his team swept everyone aside with a swashbuckling display of attacking football which had some of the best scored goals and points to ever grace a Gaelic pitch.
It was now over to the Senior,Junior,Minor and Underage squads,some where already in the middle of their championships,others were stepping out into the summer sunshine for the first time.
The Dublin Senior Hurlers relinquished their Leinster title and then bowed out at the All Ireland quarter final stage in a difficult season which led to Anthony Daly stepping down as manager after six mainly successful years in charge which seen league and Leinster titles won for the first time in decades. The minor hurlers also bowed out at the All Ireland quarter final stage to end a less than success laden year for Dublin Hurling.
For Dublin Camogie they won a Leinster title at U16 level and were unlucky not to add further silverware at minor level in both the Leinster and All Ireland series, but there was plenty to admire and be optimistic about at Minor level and Camogie in the capital has exciting times ahead. The Senior Squad were drawn in what was known as the group of death which included eventual winners Cork. Again this was part of the learning process and they finished the campaign with a well deserved draw against heavyweights Wexford which arguers well for the future. The Junior Premier Squad made it to the All Ireland Semi Final where they came up against Laois for a place in the final and a date in Croke Park but goals win games and Laois found the net in the opening minutes leaving Dublin chasing the game. To their credit they did manage to draw level midway through the second half but a raft of injuries to some of their regular starters in the lead up and during the game took its toll and Laois pulled ahead again and held on for victory.
The Men’s footballers were raging hot favorites for the Leinster and All Ireland Titles and their all out attacking style of football seen them sweep through Leinster with ease with many pundits and reporters attaching ridiculous labels like unbeatable and the like to the squad. Monaghan were the opposition for the quarter finals and were expected to give the Dubs a proper test before a probable meeting with the ultra defensive Donegal. For twenty minutes Monaghan made if uncomfortable for the boys in blue but two quick goals from Connolly and Brogan opened the floodgates and Monaghan capitulated. Semi final day arrived and Dublin were unbackable with Donegal given no chance. And for the first twenty minutes of the game the bookies looked to have got it right. A masterclass in long range shooting from Connolly and Flynn had the much vaunted Donegal defence all at sea and if a couple of goal chances had been taken it would have been game over. But goals either side of half-time turned the game on its head and the Dubs had no plan. Dublin’s propensity for all out attack leaving them exposed at the back which Donegal gleefully picked off to win and kill Dublin’s dream of back to back All Ireland Titles.
Dublin’s Ladies Senior Footballers gave supporters a season to remember. Firstly blazing a trial through Leinster to lift the title racking up huge scores and minimizing the opposition to meagre scoring returns. Then banishing their Birr and Quarter Final hoodoo with a dashing display against a Kerry team employing a northern style blanket defence which by the end of the game looked more like a ripped and tattered sheet. Galway were next up in the semi’s and The Girls In Blue left gave it their all with a display full of determination,bottle,skill and heart.
Wrongly down to fourteen midway through the second half in what was a tense tight game it looked like they had their backs to the wall but every player dug in and put up the thou shall not pass signs and countering at pace to deservedly win.
Then on the third Sunday in September came the All Ireland Final and what a final it was. Up against their old nemesis Cork the Jackies tore them apart for three quarters of the game with pace,power and accuracy. Never had Cork had the ball turned over on them so much. Never had their defence been at such sixes and sevens. Never had their forwards been forced to kick so many wides.
They were like rabbits caught in the headlights with fifteen minutes to go,but they hadn’t won all their previous All Ireland titles for nothing and a couple of decisions went their way which they took full advantage of and clawed their way somehow back into a game they deserved to lose. By the end Dublin had cruelly lost by the narrowest of margins but they had nothing to be ashamed of they had done the county proud all year and had been involved in the best and most exciting All Ireland Final for many a year across any of the codes.
Added to this Dublin Ladies Football had added further silverware with Leinster titles at U14,U16 and Minor level with all the squads very unlucky not to add the All Ireland titles as well. Losing narrowly in All Ireland Semi Finals and Finals but once again showing the highly skilled talent that is coming through the ranks which will win many more titles representing Dublin Ladies Football for many seasons to come.
So 2014 has been some season for Dublin Gaa and 2015 promises to be even bigger. The excitement and optimism will I believe be even greater at the start of 2015 because of last seasons successes and also because of a number of other factors.
Firstly both the Dublin men’s and ladies senior footballers have unfinished business that I believe they will complete in 2015. Hurling in the capital will look to put a poor season behind them and get back to winning ways with the Ger Cunningham appointment to be the catalyst. And finally the Excitement around the appointment of the new Dublin Camogie Senior management team and the prospect of a great season ahead will filter down to all the Dublin Camogie squads and push them all on.
So strap yourself in for what promises to be a success laden 2015. The futures bright the futures Blue and Navy. -Nigel.
Image Credits:GaaPics and Sportsfile