Dublin-Meath Games Have Lost Their Edge Says Whelan
Ciaran Whelan says that Dublin-Meath games have lost their edge as Leinster’s big two prepare to face off yet again this weekend.
Whelan made his Dublin debut against Meath in the 1996 Leinster final when the Dubs were dethroned as provincial and All-Ireland champions in a shock result, though he doesn’t foresee a similar outcome this Sunday.
Back then, of course, Dublin were eliminated from the Championship having lost the Leinster final and Whelan played in two more subsequent games against Meath where it was a winner takes-all clash but since 2001 he feels the fizz has been sucked from the rivalry with the fixture now no longer a sellout attraction.
“Pre back-door, Dublin-Meath games probably took on a different level, the intensity was probably a lot higher,” says Whelan, who last played against Meath in 2009 before retiring later that year.
“It was win at all costs. It was a respectful rivalry but once you got on behind the white line you did what you had to do to win.
“Maybe the games are lacking the intensity in terms of you don’t have sellout crowds for Dublin-Meath games anymore. I suppose there is a message within that, similar to Cork and Kerry in Munster, perhaps it’s the Championship model we are playing.
“But it’s still a special rivalry, they are special days and it is the one day of the calendar year that I miss most as an inter-county player.”
Whelan, who will take part in the Bord Gais Energy Legends Tour series at Croke Park this year, has said in the past how he feels the Allianz League should be replaced with a provincial league format that would feed into a cross-provincial Championship in the summer.
“There is a staleness and to be frank about it, the football Championship this year hasn’t been great. There’s been nothing to get excited about. No games put you on the edge of your seat saying, ‘This is end to end stuff’. We need something new.
“I fully accept the argument about (keeping) provincials. That would be why I say you keep your provinces but they’re provincial leagues. Even in February or March, from a player welfare perspective, you’re playing within your own province. You have more games Friday and Saturday.
“You have ridiculous stuff at the moment in February of people driving the length of the county on Sunday evenings, bad weather, to play league games. You would play your provincial leagues, have a provincial winner in April.”
The FRC had a proposal to shift teams beaten in the early rounds in Ulster and Leinster into Connacht and Munster though it didn’t get past Central Council.
“Sometimes it takes time to get there. We saw that opening up Croke Park was rejected a few times. At least if you get a healthy debate going… I didn’t like the proposal of sending the weakest teams down to Munster to get hockeyed again by Cork or Kerry. I thought that was ludicrous.
“I think we have to look at freshening up the Championship. I’ve had that view for two or three years. The bite has gone out of the provincial championships. “It’s only from here, from this weekend onwards, or the provincial finals last weekend, that it really begins to heat up and you can see a few attractive games coming down the line.
“A lot of fixtures are becoming repetitive, Cork-Kerry in Munster, Galway-Mayo, Dublin-Meath to a certain degree. They just don’t have that same bite they did 15 years ago when there was no back door.”(The Mirror)