Jim Gavin’s Dublin side went just over two years unbeaten in League and Championship before losing by a solidarity point to Kerry in this season League Final.
In the immediate aftermath of that game pundits and journalists were falling over each other to profess that this was the beginning of the end for the Dubs and the team was in decline.
Fast forward to the metropolitans opening Leinster Championship game against Carlow and although Dublin recorded a fairly comfortable win it wasn’t a sparkling performance.
That wasn’t surprising as it was the Dubs first competitive game in eight weeks and add in the Carlow tactics on the day of pulling all 15 players inside their own half it was never a game for players to shine in.
But yet again this was joyfully put forward as further evidence that Jim Gavin’s team are on the wane.
Last Sunday in Croke Park Dublin rammed those sentiments back down the throats of those who were ridiculously proclaiming the reigning All Ireland Champions as a spent force, with a scintillating display of attacking power in their 31 point annihilation of Westmeath.
Now to bring a modicum of balance to that result, something that pundits and journalists don’t seem to be able to do these days, the full time result will come with a health warning attached to it as Dublin beat a Westmeath side that operated in division 4 of the national league this season so they aren’t one of the top teams in the country.
But it was the manner of victory that impressed the most, the sharpness, pace, power, lines of running, swift interplay, clever and accurate foot and hand passing, ruthlessness, tracking, tackling, high fielding and scoring accuracy that Dublin produced in GAA headquarters on Sunday would have seen even those teams that are classed as the metropolitans main title rivals would have struggled to live with.
Westmeath gave it a go for the opening quarter and the sides were tied at 0-04 apiece after twelve minutes. But from there to the finish it was all Dublin as they relentlessly piled forward leaving the men from the Lake County all at sea.
The midlanders goal led a charmed life and only some last ditch blocks stopped Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock and Brian Fenton from raising a green flag and Ciaran Kilkenny blasted what would have been the best team goal seen in Croker for years wide.
But seven minutes before the break Gavin’s troops got their just reward for their attacking prowess when Eric Lowndes cut through the Westmeath defence and picked out Dean Rock with a perfect pass and the Ballymun Kickhams man palmed the ball to the back of the net
Rock, Mannion and Kilkenny added further points to give the Dubs a thirteen point lead at the short whistle on a scoreline of 1-15 to 0-05 and it wasn’t a matter of if Dublin would win but by how many.
Dublin boss Jim Gavin made a change at the break bringing in Eoghan O’Gara for Paddy Andrews and it only took the towering forward seven second half minutes to make his mark as he fielded a high ball, turned inside his marker and blasted the ball to the net.
Although Westmeath grabbed the next two points a run of seven unanswered points from the boys in blue drove the final nails in the midlanders Leinster championship coffin. Having used all their subs Westmeath were reduced to 14 when Noel Mulligan was black carded in the 67th and Dublin went to town hitting 2-03 in the closing stages with the goals coming from Ciaran Kilkenny and Kevin McManamon to seal an emphatic victory.
So yes Dublin are obviously a team in decline, they only scored 4-29 that won’t win you many games, only 4-23 of that total came from open play and only eleven Dublin players got on the scoresheet that’s the sign of a once top team on a slippery slope to the mediocrity.
The options available to Gavin from the bench are obviously poor as those thrown into the fray on Sunday could only contribute 2-05 to the final scoreline, that was only a point more than the entire Westmeath team and substitutes managed over the entire 70 plus minutes of last weekends encounter, so yes the rot has certainly set in.
Dublin’s recent dominance has led to preposterous analysis and claims from the country media hacks and TV pundits anytime the metropolitans don’t perform at the top of their game.
The coverage is so imbalanced and the Dubs displays are scrutinised so forensically for any mistakes to justify their claims of a decline in Jim Gavin’s squad that it’s actually getting embarrassing.
Another thing that those who have prematurely declared the decline in the abilities of Jim Gavin’s men should remember is last Sunday stellar performance and hammering of Westmeath, was all achieved without the services of the likes of Diarmuid Connolly, Philly McMahon, Paul Flynn, John Small, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cormac Costello, all of whom are multiple All Ireland winners.
Claims that Dublin are in decline is just wishful thinking from those beyond the pale.
Dean Rock 1-05 (5f)
Paul Mannion 0-08
Ciaran Kilkenny 1-03
Kevin McManamon 1-01
Eoghan O’Gara 1-00
Con O’Callaghan 0-03
Paddy Andrews 0-02
Brian Fenton 0-02
Shane Carthy 0-02
Bernard Brogan 0-02 (1f)
Jack McCaffrey 0-01
John Heslin 0-04 (3f)
Kieran Martin 0-03
John Egan 0-02
Get Egan 0-01
1. Stephen Cluxton
2. Michael Fitzsimons
3. Jonny Cooper
4. Eric Lowndes
5. Niall Scully
6. Cian O’Sullivan
7. Jack McCaffrey
8. Brian Fenton
9. James McCarthy
10. Ciarán Kilkenny
11. Paddy Andrews
12. Paul Mannion
21. Darren Daly
14. Con O’Callaghan
15. Dean Rock
25. Eoghan O’Gara For 11. Paddy Andrews (HT)
20. Shane Carthy For 3. Jonny Cooper (43rd Min)
19. David Byrne For 2. Michael Fitzsimons (43rd Min)
18. Bernard Brogan For 15. Dean Rock (46th Min) 13. Kevin McManamon For 5. Niall Scully (47th Min) 23. Brian Howard For 14. Con O’Callaghan (60th Min)
1. Darren Quinn
2. Jamie Gonoud
3. Kevin Maguire
4. Killian Daly
5. Mark McCallon
6. Frank Boyle
7. James Dolan
17. Alan Gaughan
9. Ger Egan
10. Callum McCormack
11. Paul Sharry
12. Kieran Martin
20. David Lynch
14. John Heslin
22. John Egan
23. Noel Mulligan For 17. Alan Gaughan (HT)
22. Kevin Reilly For 10. Callum McCormack (48th Min) 19. Cormac Boyle For 4. Killian Daly (50th Min) 24. Shane Corcoran For 21. John Egan (52nd Min) 15. Denis Glennon For 11. Paul Sharry (56th Min) 8. Alan Stone For 20. David Lynch (64th Min)