A team that finishes strong is one thing. It’s one thing that has proved a trademark for Dublin’s Senior Footballers for a long period of time now. Yet there have been a few moments this year during the National League when things may have not gone their way.
Of their seven round encounters, Dublin dropped points drawing three of them, against Tyrone, Donegal and Kerry despite strong performances in all fixtures.
And, literally, when push came to shove in Croke Park on April 9th, that strong finish fell short. For some there’s the belief that had Dean Rock converted that last free right at the whistle, Dublin would have bossed the extra time and won their fifth consecutive league title. But that’s something we’ll never know. And the statistics are now inked in the history books.
Fingallians Forward and four time All Ireland Champion Paul Flynn believes it could have been.
“There would have been only one winner, in my eyes.” Flynn told RTÉ.ie “I thought we would have definitely pulled through.”
“But we just can’t be leaving it that late. I think we have the ability to play well for the whole 70 minutes, not just in phases.”
Kerry managed to hold Dublin scoreless for the third quarter of the League Final, their first league or championship loss in over two year, leaving them trailing by five points despite there still being time on the clock.
“We just didn’t perform really. We didn’t play well for too long of periods. We just couldn’t pull it back.”
The team now turn their attention to the Leinster Championship campaign at the beginning of June, facing Carlow or Wexford on their opening day. They’ve won 11 of the last 12 provincial titles, many believing there’s a lack of proper competition in the current Leinster set up.
But with so many players attempting to break into the Dublin Senior panel, Paul believes that competition for places completely compensates for that lack of competitive action.
“Motivation for us is all driven through the competition internally for everything, and that’s throughout of the whole season, whether its for an O’Byrne Cup game or an All-Ireland Final.”
“There’s a lot of competition in every line at the moment, which is good and the way to have it.”
“So it shouldn’t matter who you play against. Once you’re going after a good performance individually and collectively then the opposition shouldn’t matter.”
And the end of the unbeaten run? Has it affected him? Or any of the panel?
“It was always going to end at some stage, it was never going to go on forever.
“But the fact it was a league final kind of compounded it a little bit more and make you reflect on it a little bit more. Say had we lost to Kerry in Tralee, would we have reflected on it as much?
“There is no time to look back because everyone else is looking forward. People you are playing against are thinking about taking you off your perch, so you have to look forward and try and grow as a team and develop and get better every year. And in every game, because if you don’t people will just overtake you.”