Dublin Full Back Michael Fitzsimons reflects on a past meeting with Donegal in the Championship
2014 and 2016 are worlds apart in terms of Dublin’s Championship history. But many will still hark back to their Semi Final defeat to Donegal four years ago as a major turning point in the arc that Dublin football has travelled since.
For the Tir Connaill men, they remain holders of the tag the last team to beat Dublin in the championship. Such was the manner of the defeat, with Dublin as hot favourites to repeat their 2013 All Ireland success, it spurned hard lessons and a rethinking of Jim Gavin’s “process”.
Four years on and Dublin remain unbeaten in the Championship series since that faithful day. With this weekend being only their second All Ireland meeting since 2014, the Dubs will use that game as a stick to beat on the Croke Park surface.
Cuala and Dublin defender Michael Fitzsimons was a starter in the 2014 Semi Final and came off the bench 2 years ago in the Quarter Final against Donegal. And he knows that a lot has changed over the years, but the challenge is still the same.
“Each game, you try and learn after each win and each loss.” Fitzsimons told Dublin GAA. “But it’s easier to learn from the losses. But you definitely learn and it’s brought up when you’re analysing certain games.”
Dublin’s Last Championship Loss – 2014
No one expected Dublin to be exiting the All Ireland Championship in 2014 at the Semi Final stage, but 3 goals from Ryan McHugh and Conor McFadden put paid to Dublin’s quest for back to back All Ireland’s, a fete they’ve since achieved, with a lot of their success publicly down to this 2014 defeat.
“There was a lot of soul-searching. People had to figure out where they went wrong individually, where we went wrong as a team, at what stages we could have addressed it and what we needed to bring into next year.”
“We just…we had a chance to get to a final and we blew it. We were in a good position until 25 minutes into it but there was so much learning in that game. We had to do a lot of analysis.”
The Dubs had raced ahead to 0-07 to 0-02 on the stroke of 19 minutes. But Donegal began to drive forward and turn the ball over. In the 32nd minute both Cluxton and Fitzsimons failed to clear a high ball. Ryan McHugh pounced and rattled the net, giving Donegal a one point lead. At the break Donegal led 1-08 to 0-10.
Donegal Kill The Game
Thing went from bad to worse in the second half with Dublin chasing the game. With only 3 minutes gone Ryan McHugh struck again, palming the ball into the goal in front of the Hill. The Dub’s usual composure was beginning to wain and they conceded a plethora of wides. They had clawed back within four points of Donegal. But with only 11 minutes gone Conor McFadden struck Donegal’s third, killing the game with more than 25 minutes to play. Dublin’s Championship had come to a shocking premature end.
“There was a lot of soul-searching.” Fitzsimons admitted. “People had to figure out where they went wrong individually, where we went wrong as a team, at what stages we could have addressed it and what we needed to bring into next year.”
“We were in a good position until 25 minutes into it but there was so much learning in that game, we had to do a lot of analysis.”
“Football has changed a bit since then. And we’ve probably changed a bit since then. You’d always be wary of stuff like that, of the impact of long kick-outs, of leaving space in certain areas.”