The Seeds Were Sown In 2010 To Herald The Trophy Laden Success During The Glory Filled Decade Of The Dubs
In the annuals of GAA history 2010 to 2019 will be forever known as the Decade of the Dubs as they claimed seven All Ireland titles in an unbelievable era for football in the Capital.
The 1970’s had long held the mantle as the Decade of the Dubs, with the team of that era appearing in six All Ireland finals in a row – winning three of them as well as capturing six Leinster titles in a row and two national league titles.
But with seven All Ireland’s, nine Leinster titles in a row and five national league titles won between 2010 and 2019 the title of Decade of the Dubs has shifted to the Dublin team of the last 10 years.
As we start 2020 we take a look back at the last trophy laden decade. In part 1 we go through the first five years between 2010 to 2014 and the ups and downs of the first half of the Decade of the Dubs.
Heading into 2010 even the most optimistic Dublin supporters would have looked mockingly at anyone who would have claimed that over the next ten years Dublin would capture seven All Ireland titles.
The blue and navy brigade had suffered 14 years of disappointment and heartache as the optimism at the beginning of each year since 1995 was crushed year in and year out usually at the All Ireland quarter final stage.
Dublin football had become the butt of jokes up and down the country as the once mighty Dubs capitulated each year once the competition had gone beyond the provincial stage.
2009 ended with an embarrassing defeat by 1-24 to 1-07 at the hands of Kerry with then manager Pat Gilroy labelling his side ‘Startled Earwigs’ in the aftermath of the game.
2010 started with less optimism than normal after the previous years defeat to Kerry and the sight of a Dublin team climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand in September seemed as far away as it ever had since 95’.
The thoughts of facing the same Kerry side in the opening game of the 2010 National League didn’t help the mood of supporters and they traveled down to the Kingdom more in hope than belief particularly as Dublin hadn’t recorded a win on Kerry soil in the league since the 1982/83 season.
When people look for the turning point in Dublin’s fortunes this past decade most claim the quarter final win over Tyrone in the All Ireland championship as the big moment, it wasn’t, it was in Fitzgerald Stadium on the 7th of February 2010.
A new look Dublin team with a new more defensive style and set-up battled their illustrious opponents right to the final whistle in poor weather conditions to claim a two point win on a scoreline of 1-12 to 1-10.
It may have only been the first League game of the year but that win did more for Dublin and made the All Ireland quarter final win later in the year possible. The celebrations at the final whistle said as much, not only did it bury some ghosts from the previous year, it instilled belief not only in the new playing system, but in the players themselves that they could compete with the top sides.
It dispelled the myth that Dublin couldn’t win games outside of the Capital and they backed it up with away wins against Mayo in Castlebar and Tyrone in Omagh, another significant victory that paved the way for the quarter final win against the same opposition in July of 2010.
The 2010 Leinster championship was met with renewed excitement and anticipation. By the end of the semi-final optimism for a good run in the championship had disappeared as Meath hit Dublin for five in a 5-09 to 0-13 win.
Dublin played a more expansive style that day and rumour has it that the players wanted to abandon the more defensive approach and play football the Dublin way with open attacking football against Meath and the story goes that the management granted the players wishes and the team conceded as many goals in one game as they had through the whole of the National League.
Whether that rumour is correct or not the experiment was over and it was back to the new style that had served them well up to the Leinster semi final. Nervy wins in the qualifiers over Tipperary and Armagh and a more comfortable one over Louth sent the Dubs to a meeting with their old nemesis Tyrone in the All Ireland Quarter Final.
Tyrone were favourites but it was Dublin who emerged victors after a tense and full blooded encounter thanks in no small measure to Eoghan O’Gara’s goal in the 1-15 to 0-13 win. Another ghost laid to rest and a semi final meeting with Cork awaited.
Dublin were excellent that day against the Rebel County and led by five points entering the final quarter. But although they were the better team on the day indiscipline in the tackle cost them dearly as they conceded 1-07 from placed balls including a late penalty that dragged Cork back into the game and the men in red held on for a one point win by 1-15 to 1-14.
So near and yet so far for Dublin, but the seeds had been well and truly planted in 2010 and the crops of glory would flourish for the rest of the decade.
There was serious excitement for the start of the 2011 National League and Dublin has an unbeaten run to the final were they met Cork and once again the Rebels claimed the spoils by a single point with the full time score 0-21 to 2-14.
Wins against Laois and Kildare garnered a Leinster final spot against Wexford. Many predicted an easy win for the Dubs, it was anything but easy as Wexford gave Pat Gilroy’s side a battle and a half and Dublin got over the line by 2-12 to 1-12 to claim the Leinster title.
Next up was another meeting against Tyrone in the All Ireland quarter final and once again it was Dublin who prevailed by 0-22 to 0-15.
Another Ulster side in the shape of Donegal awaited in the semi final. In what was one of the strangest games ever witnessed in Croke Park which seen Jim McGuinness’s side park 14 players inside their own half, Dublin ended the frustrating and non entertaining game as two point winners by 0-08 to 0-06.
For the first time in sixteen years Dublin had reached the All Ireland Final and their opponents were Kerry. The game was an emotional rollercoaster for all involved both out on the field of play and in the stands and on the Hill 16 terrace.
Midway through the second half Kerry led by four and looked odds-on to add another All Ireland title to their collection. But cometh the hour cometh the man, Kevin McManamon was introduced in the 51st minute of the game and turned the game on it’s head with the two most telling contributions of the game.
An intercepted pass was fed to Alan Brogan, he in turn found the onrushing McManamon and he skipped past a couple of Kerry defenders and blasted the ball to the net, game on and the stadium erupted.
With time almost up and a replay looking highly likely McManamon broke forward and won a free. Up stepped Stephen Cluxton, he eyed the target, took a couple of steps back and struck the ball clean and through over the bar, the famous stadium shook to its very foundations as Dublin supporters all around Croke Park went into a frenzy. Seconds later and Dublin had returned to the promised land.
Significant wins bring a rise in expectation and so it was for 2012. A poor National League Campaign which yielded just three wins did little to quell the championship hype. Dublin retained their Leinster title with a 2-13 to 1-13 win over Meath but there were warning signs all year that Pat Gilroy’s team weren’t firing on all cylinders and with no change in their style of play teams were beginning to work them out.
A difficult All Ireland quarter final win over Laois by 1-12 to 0-12 did little to quell the ever growing concern about Dublin’s form. Mayo were the opponents in the semi-final, the manager and some Mayo pundits did their upmost to influence the referee heading into the game, those who were in attendance would vouch that it worked.
Mayo were much the better team in the first half and by the 51st minute of the game led by 0-17 to 0-07. Dublin awoke from their slumber and the fight back began, Mayo were in trouble, penned in their own half as Dublin started to hit point after point.
The men from the West started to drop like flies and the Mayo physio spent more time on the pitch than some of the players did. But even using this underhanded ploy to break up the play and run down the clock they needed a top class save from goalkeeper David Clarke to save their bacon as he denied Bernard Brogan a certain goal and they held on by their fingertips to win by 0-19 to 0-16.
That defeat herald the departure of Pat Gilroy as he stepped down. But despite the defeat the St Vincents man had left Dublin in rude health and had laid the solid foundations that would see Dublin dominate the League and Championship in what would become a glorious Decade Of The Dubs.
A new season and a new man in charge as Jim Gavin took the managerial reins for 2013. Jim introduced new faces to the squad and switched to a more attacking style of play.
Jim Gavin’s side finished top of the table in Division 1 of the National League. Dublin beat Mayo in the League semi final by 2-16 0-16. Tyrone were the opponents in the League Final, it was a thrilling game played near championship intensity.
Tyrone led by a point with three minutes left on the clock but two points from Dean Rock and one from Jack McCaffrey gave Dublin a one point win by 0-18 to 0-17 and their first league title since the 1992/93 season.
Dublin sailed through Leinster on the way to another Delaney Cup beating Westmeath, Kildare and Meath conceding just 1-32 in those three games combined. Cork were next up in the quarter finals, although there was only five points between the sides at the finish Dublin were by far the better team on the day.
That win set up a mouthwatering semi final clash with Kerry in Croke Park. Paul Mannion scored a goal for the Dubs in the first half, but Kerry came with a game plan to pressure the Cluxton kick-outs and it caused chaos in the first half as the men from the Kingdom struck three goals past the Dublin captain and led 3-05 to 1-09 at the break.
The men from the Capital though showed the mettle in the second half and a brilliant solo goal from Kevin McManamon in the 70th minute started a late devastating 2-02 salvo with the second goal coming in stoppage time from Eoghan O’Gara to claim a place in the final and a meeting with Mayo.
Dublin’s rivalry with Mayo dominated the last decade and the two teams brought the best out in each other. Mayo started the brighter of the two teams in the 2013 All Ireland Final and dominated the early possession to take the lead. But a goal from Bernard Brogan got the Dubs motoring and by the break there was just a point between the teams.
The sky blues though were the better team after the break, midway through the half they led by three, a well worked goal finished to the net by Andy Moran brought Mayo back into a game that was slipping away from them.
But minutes later Dublin grabbed their second goal of the game when Bernard Brogan palmed to the net after good work from Michael Darragh Macauley and Denis Bastick and Dublin went on to win their second All Ireland title in three years on a scoreline of 2-12 to 1-14.
The 2014 season began as the previous year ended with more silverware as the Dubs defended their National League Division 1 title with a 3-19 to 1-10 win over Derry in the league final on the 27th of April and Jim Gavin’s side headed into the championship as red-hot favourites to retain their Leinster and All Ireland titles.
Gavin’s side continued with their all out attacking style which was exciting to watch and guaranteed big score-lines in their run to retaining their Leinster championship title notching wins against Laois by 2-21 to 0-16, Wexford by 2-25 to 1-12 and against Meath in the Leinster final by 3-20 to 1-10.
Another easy win in the All Ireland quarter final against Monaghan which included two eye catching goals from Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly in the 2-22 to 0-11 win had the pundits and scribes already declaring the Dubs as All Ireland champions.
Donegal were up next in the semi-final, no one gave Jim McGuinness’s side a hope and there was an air of giddy confidence evident in the Dublin supporters as they filtered into Croke Park.
For the first twenty five minutes of the opening half that confidence from supporters, pundits, reporters and the bookies looked completely justified as Dublin dominated the proceedings.
Donegal set up defensively but Dublin nullified the deep lying numbers by hitting long range points with five coming from the boots of Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly. The Donegal players were all at sea and looked already out on their feet from the Dublin onslaught.
Two clear cut goal chances that would have all but finished off the men from the north-west went a begging. Neil McGee got a vital block on an effort from Bernard Brogan in the 12th minute and a fine save from goalkeeper Durcan in the 24th minute denied Diarmuid Connolly a three pointer.
Dublin’s all our attacking style though was leaving them exposed at the back and a quick counter-attack in the 33rd minute yielded the first goal of scored by Ryan McHugh and amazingly in a half Dublin dominated they found themselves a point in arrears with the score 1-08 to 0-10.
Two goals in the opening 11 minutes of the second half from McHugh and McFadden turned the game on its head. Donegal the supposed no-hopers were in the driving seat to pull off the biggest upset in the championship for years. The normally calm Dublin side were gripped with panic and the error and wide count soared and Donegal claimed the win by 3-14 to 0-17.
In part 2 we look back on the three in a row winning years from 2015 to 2017 which set up the Dubs up for the hunt for the elusive five in-a-row to round off the Decade of the Dubs in style.