The Final Two Years Of The Decade Of Dubs Threw Up Some Epic Battles As Dublin Battled Their Way To GAA Immortality

A poster with the Sam Maguire cup on the Croke park pitch flanked by the Dublin crest on each side with the text Decade of the Dubs Part 3

In the final part at our look back on the Decade of the Dubs we recall the final two glorious years of the decade 2018 and 2019 as Dublin hunted down the elusive All Ireland five in-a-row.

Dublin continued to break records and entertain and excite not just the Dublin supporters but football fans around the country with their brand of attacking football in some epic battles in the final two years of the decade on their way to GAA immortality.

2018

Having relinquished their division 1 league title to Kerry in the final the previous year it was clear in the opening rounds of the 2018 league that Dublin were determined to reclaim the trophy.

They opened up against Kildare at the end of January and recorded a seven point win by 2-17 to 2-10.

Brian Fenton top scored with 1-03, Dean Rock finished with 1-02 to his name and new kid on the block Brian Howard chipped in with 0-02.

Although Gavin wouldn’t have been happy with the concession of 2-10 his side were well behind Kildare in terms of fitness having only returned to training.

Next was a trip to Omagh and the cauldron of Healy Park and a tussle with a Tyrone side still smarting from their semi final humiliation at the hands of the Dubs.

And Tyrone got off to a dream start with a goal from Cathal McShane in the fifth minute. Dublin responded with a fine point from Kevin McManamon and a Dean Rock free, but the Ulster men hit back with a point from Connor McAliskey and a converted free from Lee Brennan.

In the 23rd minute Dublin got right back into the game, a long ball to the square wasn’t cleared by the Tyrone defence and Ciaran Kilkenny was quickest to react to sweep the loose ball to the net. By the break Tyrone led by two with the score 1-07 to 1-05.

But Dublin upped their pace and intensity after the break and a Dean Rock free, an inspirational point from James McCarthy and another fine effort from Brian Fenton put Dublin in front for the first time in the game.

Dublin suffered a blow though when Niall Scully was sent off on a second yellow card.

But Jim Gavins side continued to push on and points from McManamon and Kilkenny stretched the lead to three.

Despite their numerical advantage Tyrone struggled to penetrate the hard working and disciplined Dublin defence, on the one occasion they did Stephen Cluxton put up the you shall not pass signs with a brilliant save from McAliskey.

Colm Basquel and Eoghan O’Gara entered the fray, Basquel clipped over a couple of nice points and then set up O’Gara who buried the ball to the net and the Dubs ran out comfortable winners by 2-13 to 1-11.

Donegal were next up on a wet, cold and windy February evening in Croke Park.

Dublin enjoyed a commanding first half with Niall Scully and Colm Basquel leading the charge upfront. Scully started a Dublin scoring spree between the seventh and 16th minute which yielded five points in a row to move Dublin into an 0-06 to 0-02 lead.

Back to back points from Scully pushed the lead out to a half dozen points as Dublin continued to dominant proceedings with Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley lording it in midfield setting up attack after attack.

By the break Dublin led by 0-11 to 0-05, it could have been an even wider gap but Colm Basquel rifled a goal chance over. The Dubs were also thankful to see a goal chance from Jamie Brennan hit the post and cannon away to safety.

It was a different story after half-time as Donegal suddenly found their mojo and they outscored Jim Gavins side by 0-08 to 0-02 between the 36th and 53rd minute with Patrick McBrearty the main threat scoring four points during Donegal’s scoring burst. With just four minutes remaining Donegal were just a point in arrears with the score 0-16 to 0-15.

But Dublin finished the game strongly and scored four points in a row in the closing stages with Paul Mannion, Eoghan O’Gara, Ciaran Reddin and Paddy Small all on target to secure a five point win by 0-20 to 0-15.

A freezing cold McHale Park in Castlebar was the venue for Dublin’s fourth round game against a Mayo side that had failed to beat the metropolitans in their last twelve meetings.

And it was to be the same old story for Mayo as the Dubs put in a stellar first half that secured yet another win over the men in green and red.

With less than two minutes on the clock Paul Mannion broke through the Mayo defence and coolly finished to the net for the games opening goal. Five points from Dean Rock, a double from Ciaran Kilkenny and a point apiece from Fenton and Mannion propelled Dublin to a five point half time lead with the score 1-09 to 0-07.

The game was all but ended as a contest in the 46th minute when Niall Scully palmed the ball to the net after some excellent work from Dean Rock.

The story of the rest of the second half was Mayo continued inability to take scores when presented to them as they missed a string of scoreable frees.

Substitute Conor Loftus put a little gloss on the final score line with three late converted frees but Dublin were never seriously troubled in the game and ran out worthy winners by 2-10 to 0-12.

Two points of note from the game were Stephen Cluxton making his 100th league appearance for Dublin and it was also the last time Dublin supporters would see Diarmuid Connolly in a Sky Blue jersey till the summer of 2019 as days after the Mayo game it was announced that the St Vincent’s man was stepping away from the panel for an undetermined time and Connolly headed to the USA for the summer.

There was plenty of anticipation ahead of Dublin’s round five clash with Kerry in Croke Park.

Dublin were determined to win back the league trophy Kerry had usurped from them the previous April and also lay down a marker for the upcoming championship and Jim Gavin’s men were utterly ruthless on the day and took Kerry apart with minimal fuss.

Kerry started brightly and points from David Clifford, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Geaney and Sean O’Shea edged the men in green and gold 0-04 to 0-01 ahead by the ninth.

Ciaran Kilkenny though landed two points in quick succession as Dublin began to motor.

Clifford and Rock swapped points, Geaney saw a close-range effort come back off the Dublin post but Kevin McCarthy swept the rebound over the bar leaving the score 0-06 to 0-04 in Kerry’s favour.

Three minutes later Dublin took the lead when Niall Scully palmed a Shane Carthy pass to the Kerry net after a sweeping full-pitch move, it was a lead Dublin wouldn’t relinquish and by the break they led by 1-08 to 0-08.

Dublin hit their stride in the third quarter and early points from Paddy Andrews and Paddy Small increased the Dublin lead and when Ciaran Kilkenny grabbed Dublin’s second goal of the game it wasn’t a case of if Jim Gavin’s side would win but by how much.

Kerry ran out of ideas and they didn’t register their first point of the second half till the 54th minute from Michael Burns, but it was no more than a consolation score with Dublin leading 2-14 to 0-09.

The Sky Blues added on three more points before the finish to record a comprehensive 12 point win and put one foot in the League final with two rounds of fixtures to go against Galway and Monaghan.

Galway were next up in Pearse Stadium in Salthill, with a gale blowing from one end of the pitch to the other it was always going to be a game of two halves in what turned out to be an ill tempered affair as anger spilled over on the pitch and the sidelines.

The Tribesmen won the toss and elected to play with the strong wind at their backs in the first half, but it was Dublin who took an early two point lead courtesy of Ciaran Kilkenny and Dean Rock.

Galway packed their defence and played on the counter-attack and the Dubs had to be extremely patient and hold on to possession till gaps appeared in the Galway backline.

Galway made good use of the wind advantage and Barry McHugh slotted a couple of frees from distance and Peter Cooke and Shane Walsh also hit a point apiece from around the 40 metre range and they led by 0-08 to 0-03 by the 24th minute.

Conor McHugh got in around the back of the Tribesmen’s fullback line and could have gone for goal but took his point instead and the Dubs found themselves five adrift at the break, but they would have the wind advantage to come in the second half.

Early points from Rock and Kilkenny cut the deficit to three, but Dublin lost Rock to a black card in the 46th minute.

A point from Johnny Cooper and a converted free from Paddy Small left the bare minimum between the teams, but points from Damien Comer and Johnny Heaney gave the Tribesmen an 0-12 to 0-09 lead.

Dublin then suffered another blow when substitute Eoghan O’Gara was shown a straight red card moments after his 63rd minute introduction.

It had no effect though on Dublin who kicked four points in a row to take the lead with the game deep into added time.

There was still enough time for one more piece of drama as Galway were awarded a free in the ninth minute of injury time and Heaney kicked the equaliser and a share of the spoils with both sides finishing with 0-13 and both teams would meet again in the league final in a couple of weeks.

With a league final place secured the outcome of Dublin’s round seven encounter with Monaghan had no real significance and there was certainly a drop in Dublin’s normal intensity levels against their Ulster opponents and although Monaghan celebrated after a late point from by substitute Fintan Kelly secured a 2-12 to 0-17 rare win over the Dubs, it was clear Dublin minds were firmly fixed on their meeting with Galway the following weekend in the League final.

There was plenty of fighting talk from Galway in the lead up to the league final but it was Dublin who walked the walk despite having to play the final twenty minutes of the final with 14 men.

Although there was only four points in it at the finish Galway can thank their goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle for that particular stat as he pulled off a number of top class saves to deny Dublin goals throughout the game.

The first of those saves was just 15 seconds into the final as Paul Mannion threatened to give the Dubs a dream start with a stinging shot at goal.

Dean Rock and Mannion edged Jim Gavins side two points ahead in the opening three minutes. But Galway soon settled and Damien Comer proved a handful for the Dublin defence and he won a free for Barry McHugh to register the Tribesmen’s first point of the game.

With ten minutes gone the sides were level thanks to a fine effort from wing-back Johnny Heaney.

Small and McHugh then traded points as the action went from one end of the pitch to the other.

Niall Scully and Ciaran Kilkenny pointed to put the Dubs two ahead, Comer pulled one back for Galway and then they took the lead for the first time with two McHugh points.

Dublin struck back with three points in a row, Mannion forced Lavelle to tip over another fine effort at goal and Dean Rock was as accurate as ever slotting over two frees.

Galway hit back with points from Heaney and Paul Conroy to send the teams into the dressing rooms at half time deadlocked at 0-08 each.

Colm Basquel was introduced at the break and made an immediate impact edging Dublin back in front within a minute of the restart.

Galway soon levelled with another McHugh free, but it was Dublin who pushed on with points from Rock, Mannion and Basquel to lead by 0-12 to 0-09 after 45 minutes.

Shane Walsh cut the gap and Galway were given a big boost when Niall Scully was sent off on a second yellow card.

Points from McHugh and Walsh tied the game again with 16 minutes of normal time left. Rock and Comer exchanged points and Lavelle was called into action again pulling off a stunning save to deny Rock a certain goal with Rock scoring the resultant 45’ and Ciaran Kilkenny doubling the lead moments later.

Comer reduced the deficit to a single score with a superb point with five minutes left but Jim Gavins side pushed for home and points from Philly McMahon, Eric Lowndes and a late Dean Rock free sealed Dublin’s fifth league title in six years on a scoreline of 0-18 to 0-14.

With the league title safely locked in the trophy cabinet attention turned to a revamped championship which seen the All Ireland quarter final stage replaced with the Super 8’s which added two extra championship games and guaranteed an away trip for Dublin in the group stage.

The Leinster championship was first to be navigated with Dublin chasing a record eighth consecutive title.

The Dubs traveled to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise for a quarter final meeting with Wicklow and it was all too easy for Gavins troops with the game over by halftime as goals from Brian Fenton, Dean Rock, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny gave Dublin an unassailable lead with the score at the break 4-13 to 1-04.

Gavin emptied his bench and Dublin cruised to a 4-25 to 1-11 win and semi final against Longford.

The semi final after an initial burst from Longford turned into another facile win, the game was so one sided it allowed Gavin to introduce long term injury absentees Jack McCaffrey, Paul Flynn And Cian O’Sullivan from the bench for their first championship outings of the year.

The one blot on the day was an injury to captain Stephen Cluxton which made his participation in the final unsure.

Longford matched Dublin in the early minutes of the game and the score was 0-04 to 0-03 after seven minutes. Ten minutes later though and the Dubs led by double scores 0-08 to 0-04.

Dublin pressurised the Longford keepers kick-outs and Michaels Darragh Macauley turned turned over one such restart, broke down the right flank, drew the goalkeeper and crossed the ball for Dean Rock to palm to the net.

Longford’s woes increased in the 21st minute when James McGivney was red carded after a disgraceful late challenge on Stephen Cluxton and the Dublin captain had to be replaced.

It went from bad to worse when Liam Connerton was dispossessed from a short kick-out by Dean Rock and Paul Mannion pounced on the loose ball and drove it into the back of the net and by the short whistle Dublin led by 2-13 to 0-07.

Longford attempted a mini revival in the third quarter outscoring Gavin’s side by five points to three but the Dubs hit the afterburners to kick 11 points in the last 19 minutes to claim a comfortable win by 2-25 to 0-12.

The win was the Dubs 23rd consecutive victory in the Leinster championship which surpassed the 22 match unbeaten run by the 70’s Dublin side who set the previous record between 1974 and 1979.

The win also broke an almost 99 year old record set by the Wexford four-in-a-row All Ireland winning side which went 21 games unbeaten in the All Ireland series, the Longford win was Dublin’s 22nd unbeaten game in the All Ireland series.

Although Jim Gavin’s side were odds on favourites to claim a record eight consecutive Leinster title, they started the Final uncharacteristically wayward in their shooting missing a number of early goal chances and kicking nine first half wides which allowed a game Laois side keep pace with them for almost the opening 30 minutes.

Dublin couldn’t have asked for a better start as Dean Rock caught a high ball in from Eric Lowndes, spun and slammed the ball to the net. Laois though responded with four points on the spin with Donnie Kingston scoring three of those points.

Dublin’s shooting was surprisingly errant for the majority of the opening half, Con O’Callaghan missed two goal chances and in the 20 minute Paul Mannion dragged a penalty attempt wide.

The Sky Blues accuracy improved in the closing stages of the half and they reeled off five unanswered points to lead at the break by 1-08 to 0-05.

The metropolitan’s though were a different prospect in the second half and by the 46th minute led by 1-13 to 0-07 with O’Callaghan and Rock among the scorers.

Laois now desperately needed goals to get back into the game but none were forthcoming and Dublin picked off points at will with Andrews, Kilkenny, Mannion, Rock and O’Callaghan all on the mark.

Gavin introduced Cormac Costello from the bench and the Whitehall Colmcille man helped himself to four points and Dublin cruised to the finish to win their eight consecutive Leinster crown by 1-25 to 0-10.

The Ulster champions Donegal were Dublin’s first opponents in the new ‘Super 8’s’ format, Jim Gavins men were drawn in group 2 alongside their opening opponents, Roscommon and Tyrone.

The one concern for the Dubs heading into the game was the lack of challenge they received in their Leinster campaign.

Captain Stephen Cluxton was back between the sticks having missed the Leinster Final with the injury he sustained in the semi final, Cian O’Sullivan was brought in to stiffen the defence and Jack McCaffrey started for the first time since injuring his knee in the previous years All Ireland Final.

Gavin surprisingly to many observers gave a championship debut to Eoin Murchan.

The men from the northwest were the last side to beat Dublin in the championship but there was to be no shock win this time round although a sloppy performance from Dublin culminating in a number of missed goal chances to kill the game off kept Donegal in it till the finish.

It looked early on that Donegal would be overrun by the Dubs as they penned Donegal in their own half and attacked in wave after wave.

Leading by two points inside the opening couple of minutes Dublin were denied a third point when Ciaran Kilkenny’s effort was ruled out by HawkEye, it was a very marginal call.

Donegal eventually worked their way into the game and just after the quarter hour they led by 0-04 to 0-03.

Jamie Brennan then got through on the Dublin goal but blazed his effort high and wide with the goal at his mercy.

The boys in blue won the subsequent kick-out and Niall Scully was played into space, he cut inside two defenders with a clever solo off his left boot and struck the ball past Donegal keeper Patton with his right boot to give the Dubs a 1-06 to 0-06 lead and by halftime Jim Gavins side led by four with the score 1-09 to 0-08.

The defending All Ireland champions extended their lead to seven points just after the restart when Scully grabbed his second goal of the game.

But some sloppy play from Dublin in the second half kept Donegal just about in touch.

A Patton kick-out went badly wrong around the 50 minute mark as he kicked it straight to Con O’Callaghan, the Dublin forward got caught in two minds between shooting or passing and in the end did neither and he chipped the ball straight back to the relieved Donegal netminder.

Shortly after Brian Fenton found himself one-on-one with Patton but hit his shot straight at the Donegal keeper as Dublin continued to miss chance after chance to finish off the game and were made to work all the way for the win with the final score 2-15 to 0-16.

One of the positives to take from the game though was that Dublin finally got a much needed tough championship workout particularly as their next challenge was a trip to Omagh to face Tyrone.

The talk in the lead up to the Tyrone fixture was all about the Healy Park playing surface as the sidelines were moved in to narrow the pitch in an effort to deny Dublin space.

A huge Dublin support made the trip north for the game creating plenty of noise and colour in the Omagh venue.

The narrower pitch allowed for closer contact and big hits and there were certainly plenty during the game including some nasty off the ball incidents, but referee David Goldrick surprisingly kept his cards in his pocket.

He should have issued though at least one red card to Tyrone’s Frank Burns for an off the ball high challenge on Brian Fenton in the 12 minute.

Dublin enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening half and patiently probed the packed Tyrone defence for openings. Points from Brian Howard, Philly McMahon, Dean Rock and John Small eased the Dubs to an 0-07 to 0-05 lead by halftime.

The first major of the game arrived in the 40th minute, James McCarthy made a penetrating run through the Tyrone rearguard played a quick one-two with Brian Fenton and let fly, Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan could only parry the shot and McCarthy reacted quickest to knock the rebound into the net.

Dublin were in cruise control leading by five with just five minutes of normal time remaining.

But Tyrone gave it one last effort and aggressively pushed up on Cluxton’s restarts which paid dividends with three points in a row to cut the deficit to just two points.

They were awarded a free in the 73rd minute that gave them a huge chance to put the bare minimum between the sides with still a couple of added on minutes to play.

But Ronan O’Neill put too much on it and forced it wide to gleeful cheers from the huge Dublin support behind the Gortin Road end goal.

A couple of nervy minutes followed before Paul Flynn restored Dublin’s three point advantage to secure a 1-14 to 0-14 victory which put Dublin through as the first team to qualify for the All Ireland semi finals.

With Dublin through to the semi finals and Roscommon already eliminated from the All Ireland championship after losing their opening 2 ‘Super 8’s games the meeting of the two sides in the final group game was nothing more than a dead rubber.

The game did give Jim Gavin the chance to give fringe players a start in the team and the opportunity to stake a claim for a jersey for the semi final.

Cormac Costello hit nine points on the day in an impressive display, Eoghan O’Gara finished with 2-02, Paul Flynn scored the first goal of the game in an excellent display and finished with 1-03 to his name and Michael Darragh Macauley was Dublin’s other goal scorer in their 4-24 to 2-16 win.

Costello, Flynn and O’Gara certainly gave Jim Gavin plenty of food for thought ahead of their semi final clash with Galway and had certainly put their hands up for a starting 15 place.

Galway were the team standing in the way of Dublin appearing in their fourth All Ireland Final in a row and sixth in eight seasons.

Again just like their earlier meetings with Jim Gavins side in 2018 there was plenty of talk from the Tribesmen in the lead up to the semi final.

In fairness to Galway they had a decent first half and would have been pleased with themselves in the dressing rooms at half time.

But Dublin did what they had done to many teams and blitzed Galway in the third quarter to run out comfortable winners by the finish.

Dublin were at it straight from the throw-in and their quick, accurate passing into the inside forwards cut through the normally suffocating Galway defence with ease.

Paul Mannion scored a brilliant point, two converted frees from Dean Rock followed and even at this early stage things looked ominous for the Tribesmen.

Their hopes though were then raised, a high ball was sent in towards Damien Comer, he jumped between two Dublin defenders, Cluxton sensed danger and dashed from his line but he didn’t get near the ball and Comer’s fisted effort sailed into the unguarded net.

Shane Walsh then kicked a classy point on the run to give Galway the lead and their tails were up.

Brian Howard drew the sides level with a fine point and then in the 11th minute Galway were awarded a penalty for a foul by Jonny Cooper on Damien Comer, Eamon Brannigan stepped forward to take the spot-kick but Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton brilliantly pushed his effort around the post.

Jim Gavin’s men then upped the ante and reeled off three points in a row from Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Fenton and Dean Rock.

Galway though were still very much in the game and a point from corner forward Ian Burke and two pointed frees from Shane Walsh brought the teams level again.

The boys in blue though hit a significant score in the 27th minute, Jonny Cooper won a Cluxton kick-out and fed the ball to Fenton, he in turn picked out Jack McCaffrey flying up the right wing, his penetrating run opened up the Galway defence and he passed to Niall Scully who immediately hand-passed the ball across the face of the Galway goal to Con O’Callaghan who palmed the ball to the net.

With three minutes to the break the Dubs led by four, but points from Walsh and Johnny Heaney reduced the deficit to two points at the short whistle with the score 1-09 to 1-07.

Mannion opened the scoring in the second half and that signalled an onslaught from the Dubs.

A Ciaran Kilkenny point in the 42nd minute put Dublin 1-12 to 1-08 in front and the points just kept coming from the Sky Blues.

Gavin sent on Cormac Costello and he landed two quick points in succession, Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon were unleashed and scored three points between as Dublin disappeared over the horizon.

A last gasp goal from Galway’s Shane Walsh did little more than give a little gloss to the Tribemen’s final tally when in truth they had been well beaten, the full-time score was 1-24 to 2-12 and Dublin immediately switched their attention to the All Ireland Final against Tyrone.

All Ireland final day arrived, in the build-up there were a number of journalists and pundits that believed that if any team could stop the Dubs it was Tyrone, by the finish the gulf in class between the two sides was evident for all to see.

Although slightly less defensive than in other years for Tyrone to stand a chance of winning they needed to get out in front as their set-up was not suited to chase a game.

And they got off to the start they wanted and needed as they raced into an 0-05 to 0-01 lead in the first quarter.

Gavin’s side though mounted a telling response and scored the opening goal of the game in the 19th minute.

Dublin put the full court press on Niall Morgan’s kick-outs, Ciaran Kilkenny turned the ball over, it was fed into Paul Mannion and just as the Kilmacud Crokes man was about to pull the trigger he was fouled by Tiarnan McCann and Dublin were awarded a penalty.

Mannion dusted himself down and powerfully and emphatically struck the ball to the back of the net.

Kilkenny won the subsequent kick-out and passed to Dean Rock who slotted the ball over the bar. Brian Fenton disrupted the next restart and Rock scored again and from five-one up Tyrone trailed by 1-04 to 0-05.

Dublin suffered a blow when Cian O’Sullivan had to leave the game due to injury and was replaced by Michael Fitzsimons.

But eight minutes before the break Jonny Cooper was fouled, he took a quick free and found Niall Scully, he slipped the ball to Con O’Callaghan, the Cuala man dummied Michael McKernan to take him out of the game and as a number of Tyrone defenders scrambled to close him down he offloaded the ball to Scully who palmed the ball to the net and at he break Dublin led by 2-07 to 0-06 and the feeling was that even with a full half to play that the game was already over.

There would have been an expectation that Tyrone would have come out and pressurised Dublin from the off in an effort to get back into the game but it never materialised.

The sides traded points throughout, but every time Tyrone scored Dublin responded in kind.

A Cathal McShane point in the 48th minute left the score 2-11 to 0-11 but Tyrone could only manage one further point in the next 15 minutes while Dublin rattled off three, one from Brian Fenton and a brace from Dean Rock.

With only a few minutes of normal time left Dublin looked to have the game in the bag, but a foul on Colm Cavanagh by Philly McMahon resulted in penalty which Peter Harte dispatched.

Moments later John Small was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red and Lee Brennan slotted over the free kick and suddenly the score was 2-14 to 1-13 with six minutes of added time still to play.

But there was to be no fairytale comeback for Mickey Harter’s side, Kevin’s McManamon responded with a point for Dublin, Mattie Donnelly scored a fine point for Tyrone but points from Ciaran Kilkenny and a fisted effort from Michael Darragh Macauley clinched a deserving 2-17 to 1-14 win and fourth All Ireland title in-a-row.

No sooner had the final whistle sounded and the five in-in-row talk began, could Jim Gavin and his Dublin side create a unique piece of history in 2019?

2019

There was certainly a different atmosphere and vibe at the start of the 2019 season with lots of commentary about Dublin and if they could be the first side in GAA history to win five All Ireland titles in a row.

Kerry in football and Kilkenny in hurling had come close but the fifth title had eluded them.

A young Kerry side were being spoken about with many believing they would indeed stop the Dubs in their quest for immortality.

Before the championship though even started there was the little matter of the National League to be contested and this year there were a number of trial rules in operation during the league including an advanced mark, and consecutive hand passes limited to three.

Dublin’s preparations were also very different in 2019, the team embarked on their team holiday later than normal and this had the knock-on effect of the Dublin team returning to training later than they had ever done under Jim Gavin.

And with this in mind during the league Gavin gave plenty of game time to up and coming players while he slowly reintroduced his regular first team players.

With the real possibility of creating history in September the National Football League was always going to be at the bottom of the list of priorities for Dublin in 2019.

An interview later in the year with Jim Gavin where he revealed his side hadn’t even done any work on the trial rules for the league as they weren’t being used in the championship gave an insight as to where the league was viewed in terms of preparation for the season.

That’s not to say that Gavin and his side didn’t take the league seriously, just that all their preparations were geared towards summer.

So behind in terms of fitness levels and sharpness to every other team in division one due to a later return to their training schedule Dublin suffered from an inconsistent league campaign.

They opened up with a round one game in Clones against Monaghan, an early goal from Niall Scully sent Dublin into a five point lead and it looked like business as usual for Jim Gavin’s side and by the break they led by 1-07 to 0-08.

Dublin extended their lead early in the second half with points from Dean Rock and Con O’Callaghan.

But with no work done on the ‘Advanced Mark’ the Dubs got caught out a number of times, Stephen O’Hanlon was introduced off the bench by Monaghan and seconds later he caught a high ball in the forward line and cut inside the Dublin defence to score an excellent goal.

Conor McManus also took advantage of the new ‘Anvanced Mark’ and scored a couple of points courtesy of the new rule.

McManus then combined with O’Hanlon to set up Shane Carey for a second goal in the 49th minute.

Dublin threatened a comeback with points from Ryan Basquel, Cormac Costello and Con O’Callaghan but Monaghan held on for 2-13 to 1-13 win to stun the Dubs in round one.

The opponents in round two were Galway and on an icy evening in Croke Park Dublin notched their first win in the 2019 National League with a comfortable 1-15 to 0-07 victory.

There was certainly signs of rustiness in Dublin’s shot selection in the first half as they recorded just six points from 14 attempts and that kept Galway in the contest at the break.

But Dublin dominated the second half, Dean Rock scored the only goal of the game in the 57th minute and finished with 1-05 on the night and Cormac Costello carried a potent threat up front and finished with 0-06. With the first win under the belt Dublin prepared for their round 3 trip to Tralee and old foes Kerry.

Just under 12,000 supporters packed into the Tralee venue for the lastest instalment between these two great rivals and were treated to another helter-skelter tie full of pace and passion.

Kerry full back Jack Sherwood scored the opening point of the contest inside the opening two minutes. Dean Rock converted a free to settle the visitors but Kerry were determined to keep the hectic pace up and led by two points on three separate occasions in the first twenty minutes, but each time Dublin hit back to leave the bare minimum between the teams.

A goal from Stephen O’Brien gave Kerry a 1-06 to 0-05 lead but the Dublin response was immediate and emphatic as Con O’Callaghan cut through the Kerry defence to slip a low shot to the net to make it a one point game again.

The men from the Kingdom scored the next four points courtesy of two Sean O’Shea frees and one each from play from Tom O’Sullivan and Dara Moynihan.

But yet again Dublin hit back with a sublime finish to the net from Paul Mannion to leave the score at half time 1-11 to 2-06.

The pace continued unabated after the break, Kerry hit four unanswered points to lead by 1-15 to 2-07 with 42 minutes played.

Points from James McCarthy, Paul Mannion and Dean Rock reduced the gap to two points as Dublin forced Kerry onto the back foot.

In the 60th minute Michael Fitzsimons was shown a harsh second yellow card and subsequent red, what he got the first yellow for is a mystery and is rumoured to be featured in a special episode of the Twilight Zone later in 2020.

Despite down to 14 Dublin played some of their best football in the final ten minutes and two points from Cormac Costello and one each from Brian Fenton and Paul Mannion brought the sides level. But in the 74th minute made their numerical advantage count and Peter Crowley fisted the ball over the bar to secure a 1-18 to 2-14 win.

Mayo arrived in Croke Park for their round 4 clash with Dublin with a 100% start to their league campaign, by the end of the game they had been beaten out the gate in a totally one sided affair.

Dublin took 19 minutes to gauge out their opponents and then hit the afterburners to blow them away.

Ciaran Kilkenny got his first action of the season after an extended break and Cian O’Sullivan and David Byrne started in the defence.

It was 0-02 apiece after 19 minutes but the Dubs seized control of the game when Cormac Costello left Keith Higgins for dead and beat Rob Hennelly with a near post shot for the games opening goal.

Points from Paul Mannion, Kilkenny, Costello and Jack McCaffrey pushed Jim Gavin’s team into a 1-06 to 0-03 interval lead.

It could have been much worse for James Horan’s men in the first half as three Dublin point attempts dropped short and Mayo’s goalkeeper was forced into four top-class saves to deny Dublin adding further to their goal tally. Mayo also spurned a penalty in the 33rd minute when Jason Doherty’s attempt was saved.

The second half was a non event as Mayo could muster just three points in total for the entire half and Dublin eased to a comfortable 1-12 to 0-07 victory.

Dr Hyde Park was the venue for Dublin’s round 5 match against Roscommon in early March. The Sky Blues were given a tough test for 50 minutes by the home side but dominated to the finish to record their first away league victory of 2019.

After an exchange of early points in a fairly even opening quarter Dean Rock collected a high Cormac Costello delivery in the 18th minute, the ball broke off Rock into the path of Con O’Callaghan who buried the ball to the net to give Dublin a 1-05 to 0-03 lead.

But Roscommon surged right back in the game in the 29th minute with a goal, Donie Smith hit a speculative high ball towards the Dublin square the ball broke to the onrushing Cathal Cregg who hammered the ball past Stephen Cluxton and by the break the sides were tied at 1-09 apiece.

Roscommon started the second half on the front foot and points from David Murray and Conor Cox put them 1-11 to 1-09 in front, but they failed to score for the next 30 minutes as Dublin took control of the possession and rattled off an unanswered 1-05 to kill off the game with the goal coming in the 51st minute when Dean Rock bundled the ball home after Con O’Callaghan’s goal-bound effort was blocked.

By finish Roscommon had been reduced to 14 players with the double yellow dismissal of Conor Devaney in the 66th minute and Dublin had five points to spare at the full time whistle with the score 2-14 to 1-12.

Dublin’s defence of their league title was ended in round six at the hands of Tyrone in Croke Park.

Despite an early fourth minute goal from Cormac Costello, the strange set-up of the defence resulted in Dublin exposed on a number occasions very reminiscent of their loss to Donegal in 2014 and the loss of Costello and John Small to injury before half-time and Paddy Andrews after the break to a broken jaw after a disgraceful shoulder charge by Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan who should have seen a straight red card but was only issued a yellow all contributed to the loss.

Tyrone played a two man forward line of Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly and McShane capitalised on a slip by David Byrne in the 21st minute to race clear and slide a low finish past Stephen Cluxton to give the Ulster men a 1-03 to 1-01 lead and they retained that two point advantage till the break with the score 1-07 to 1-05.

McShane extended the Tyrone lead seconds after the restart, but Dublin responded with points from Brian Fenton and Dean Rock.

The Tyrone lead was back to three with points from Richard Donnelly and Morgan. It was tit-for-tat as both sides fought hard to claim the win, with 50 minutes gone Tyrone were reduced to 14 when Niall Sludden was shown a black card on top of an earlier yellow which added up to a red card.

With 15 minutes remaining Tyrone still led by three with the score 1-12 to 1-09 and despite their numerical disadvantage tagged on two more points from Peter Harte and McShane.

Dublin threw the kitchen sink at their opponents in the closing stages and reduced the deficit with points from Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion.

It was as close as they got though although they did have two late goal attempts by Kilkenny and Colm Basquel thwarted and Tyrone held on for the win by 1-14 to 1-11.

The Dubs finished off their 2019 league campaign with a trip to Kingspan Breffni Park and a meeting with relegation threatened Cavan.

After a mixed league campaign Jim Gavin’s side had missed out on a place in the final for the first time since 2012 and could have been forgiven with nothing to play for just going through the motions.

But that’s not how this Dublin team operate, Gavin’s men looked comfortable as they eased into an 0-08 to 0-04 lead, Dean Rock opened the scoring with a free but it was quickly cancelled out by a mark from Dara McVeety.

Rock and Chris Conroy traded points and then Cavan hit the front for the first time with a point from Gearoid McKiernan.

Dublin responded with five of the next six points, Dean Rock grabbed four of them two from play, a mark and a free. Paul Mannion added a sweet point as the Dubs threatened to go out of sight.

Connor Madden hit back for Cavan but another free from Rock put Dublin double scores in front. Cavan though got right back in the game when Martin Reilly rose to beat Evan Comerford in the air and flicked the ball to the net to leave just a point between the teams at the interval with the score 0-08 to 1-04.

Cavan drew level on the resumption with a mark from O’Reilly, Dublin though put their foot on the gas.

Kilkenny and O’Reilly traded points and then Dean Rock either mis-hit a shot at goal or cleverly picked out Paul Mannion with a pass (the jury is still out on that one) and the Kilmacud Crokes man turned sharply and squeezed a shot past Raymond Galligan to make it 1-09 to 1-06 to Dublin.

The metropolitan’s turned the screw, a point from substitute Kevin McManamon and two more from Rock put six between the teams. Paul Graham and Killian Clarke scored two fine points for Cavan, but Dublin eased home and Colm Basquel added the final score of the game as Dublin signed off from the 2019 National League with a 1-16 to 1-10 win.

Although Dublin didn’t reach the league final it was probably a blessing in disguise and as far as dampening the media hype it couldn’t have worked out better if Jim Gavin had planned it himself.

With media darlings Mayo and a young Kerry side contesting the league final the eyes of the media turned away from Dublin.

Mayo winning the Final was also a plus for Dublin as the normally overhyped team from West were even more hyped by the media who now installed Mayo as another team capable of stopping Gavin’s history chasing squad.

No one expected anything less than Dublin claiming their ninth Leinster title in a row and so it was to pass in a dominating and one sided provincial championship.

The reigning champions Dublin began their provincial campaign at the quarter final stage in O’Moore Park against Louth.

The main talking points from Dublin’s 26 point drubbing of the men from the Wee County were the whooping 1-12 scored by Cormac Costello, the 25th minute harsh red carding of Paul Mannion and the second half introduction of Rory O’Carroll who returned to the panel in 2019 after a couple of years away travelling.

With some murmurs in the media that Dublin were on the wane Jim Gavin’s side issued a real statement of intent in their Leinster opener.

With Dean Rock injured Costello was entrusted with the free taking duties and he didn’t disappoint hitting 10 frees and one 45’ in an impressive display.

Dublin’s commanding performance included 11 different scorers including defenders Philly McMahon and Michael Fitzsimons getting on the scoresheet.

The Dubs raced into a 0-07 to 0-01 lead after 20 minutes with Costello’s free-taking punishing any indiscipline by Louth.

Dublin’s first goal arrived in the 23rd minute with Con O’Callaghan getting the final touch after the Cuala man combined with Niall Scully. Three converted frees from Costello closed out the first half and Dublin were clear by 1-12 to 0-04.

The game already over it was just a matter of how big the winning margin would be, Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley scored Dublin’s second and third goals as the Leinster holders ran riot.

Costello grabbed the goal his performance deserved and Philly McMahon broke upfield to get onto the end of a sweeping move to score the Dubs fifth goal and Gavin’s charges easily secured their semi final spot by 5-21 to 0-10.

Kildare were next up in the Leinster semi final on the back of wins against Wicklow and Longford after a replay.

Although Kildare stayed in touch with the Sky Blues in the first half, Dublin clicked through the gears in the second half and showed all their quality and efficiency to pull well clear of the Lilywhites.

Captain Stephen Cluxton completed a huge milestone against Kildare as he made his 100th Championship appearance, but it was Costello and Mannion who were the standout players in the game scoring 0-16 between them.

The Lilywhites opened the scoring with a converted free from Adam Tyrrell, but Dublin took Kildare apart hitting seven points in a row in the next 12 minutes.

Mannion and Costello got their eye in early on and Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny also registered points.

But the Dubs well on top allowed Kildare back into the game with a string of handling errors and misplaced passes during a sloppy period for the reigning champions.

Neill Flynn from a free got the ball rolling for Kildare and Ben McCormack added two more points in quick succession.

Cormac Costello and Con O’Callaghan responded for Dublin with two fine points and after 23 minutes the score was 0-09 to 0-04.

Kildare did conjure up two goal chances before the break, but McCormack’ effort was smothered by Cluxton and with the goal in his sights Mick O’Grady elected to take a point instead of going for a goal and at the break Dublin led by four with the score 0-11 to 0-07.

Four points is all Kildare could muster as the Dubs dominated the second half outscoring the men in white by 15 points to four.

A Cormac Costello free sailed between the sticks for the opening score of the second half.

Further points from Mannion, Brian Howard, O’Callaghan and a seventh point for Costello and another from O’Callaghan pushed Dublin’s lead to eight and they were almost out of sight.

Keith Cribbing had a goal chance for Kildare but his attempt was cleared by a retreating Dublin back line.

Another Mannion point in the 52nd minute took the game to 0-18 to 0-09, Gavin introduced Philly McMahon and Paddy Small from the bench and Small made an immediate impact slotting over a fine point, Costello, Mannion, Kilkenny and Fenton added to Dublin’s ever growing total.

Kevin Feeley and McCormack added points at the other end for Kildare but they were no more than consolation scores.

Costello brought a fine save from Kildare netminder Donnellan but he converted the subsequent 45’ and Mannion tagged on two more to complete a routine win on a scoreline of 0-26 to 0-11 and a place in the Leinster final against Meath.

Meath and Dublin have had many tough close battles over the years in the Leinster championship, the 2019 Leinster Final wasn’t one of them as Jim Gavin’s side after a competitive first half kicked on in the second half to record a facile 16 point win.

The one worrying thing though for Dublin was the sight of James McCarthy being helped from the pitch late in the first half with an injury to his left knee.

Light rain fell throughout making conditions slippy, the conditions, some excellent Meath defending and a glut of wasted goal opportunities, including a missed penalty from Paul Mannion who watched his spot-kick cannon back off the upright and away to safety resulted in a low scoring return in the first half from Dublin of just five points.

The problem for Meath though was their return was just a single point from 12 attempts for the opening 35 plus minutes. The Royals hit six first-half wides, dropped a further three efforts short and hit the bar with two others.

Jack McCaffrey and Costello stretched Dublin’s lead after two early misses from Meath and the Dubs drove on from there.

Dean Rock was introduced and he seized his opportunity scoring four points and setting up Con O’Callaghan with a perfectly weighted hand pass to smash the ball low to the net.

In the end it was a very comfortable win for Dublin by 1-17 to 0-04 and the ninth Leinster title in-a-row was secured with the minimum fuss.

Now it was down to the business end of the season and a Phase 1 ‘Super 8s’ game against Cork.

The Dubs were drawn in group 2 of the ‘Super 8s’ alongside their opening opponents Cork, Tyrone and Roscommon.

A loss for Dublin in either of their opening two groups games would leave them with the task of taking something from their trip to Omagh to play Tyrone in phase 3.

Cork arrived in Croke Park with plenty of confidence after their display against Kerry in the Munster Final were they gave a serious fright to their old rivals and against Laois in round four of the qualifiers beating the Leinster outfit by 14 points.

That confidence transferred in the early stages against Dublin and the Rebels flew into a four point to no score lead inside the opening six minutes with points from Kevin O’Driscoll, Sean White, Paul Kerrigan and Ruairi Deane.

Dublin were awarded a penalty for a foul on Con O’Callaghan which was then strangely overturned, but Dublin soon found the range and the impressive O’Callaghan hit the Dubs first score in the eight minute.

Dublin’s next score was the first major of the game, Paul Mannion fed the marauding Jack McCaffrey he slipped inside both Sean White and Thomas Clancy and pirouetted to fire a shot across the goal and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Jim Gavin’s side drew level in the 16th minute and a Brian Fenton point two minutes later gave Dublin a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

With the score 1-09 to 0-09 late in the first half Con O’Callaghan brilliantly won a ball in the air with his back to goal, he laid if off to Cormac Costello who burst down the left and passed the ball to the back post and Michael Darragh Macauley palmed in Dublin’s second goal to secure a 2-09 to 0-09 interval lead.

Cork were excellent in the third quarter and posed the Dublin defence some serious questions, the Rebels were awarded a penalty in the 46th minute when Cian O’Sullivan pulled down Ian Maguire and Luke Connolly converted the spot-kick and Cork managed to cut the deficit to just two points on a number of occasions.

But they just couldn’t find parity and Gavin introduced Dean Rock to telling effect with Rock finishing with five points to his name.

With an hour gone there was still just three points between the teams, but Dublin made sure of the win with a late flurry of goals from Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton and were now just one win from a place in the All Ireland semi-finals.

The phase 2 opponents were Roscommon, the two sides had met in the previous years ‘Super 8s’ in the final group game, Dublin were already through to the semi finals, Roscommon were out so there was little on the line and Dublin comfortably won the game as Gavin gave a runout to a number of fringe players.

This time round was a little different, Roscommon had lost their opening group game to Tyrone and therefore needed a win to remain in the competition, for Dublin a win secured the semi final place and Gavin could afford to rest players for their final group game against Tyrone.

Anthony Cunningham’s Roscommon side were competitive for the opening ten minutes, but that all changed as soon as Dean Rock who scored an impressive 1-11 in the game palmed the ball to the net for Dublin’s opening goal and it was all one way traffic after that.

Paul Mannion gave Sean Mullooly a torrid time on the edge of the small square, Con O’Callaghan was too hot to handle for the Roscommon rearguard and Brian Fenton was imperious in midfield. Rock, Ciaran Kilkenny and Mannion kicked points for fun and the Rossies were thankful for Conor Cox who kept the scoreboard at least somewhat ticking over with a couple of excellent points.

The game was over for Roscommon in the 34th minute when they were reduced to 14 as Conor Daly was shown a yellow and black card in quick succession.

By the break Dublin led by 1-15 to 0-07 and the only issue left to be decided in the second half was Dublin’s margin of victory.

Seconds after the restart Jack McCaffrey added to Dublin’s total with an excellent point. Michael Darragh Macauley made one of his trademark lung-bursting runs through the heart of the Roscommon defence and buried the ball to the net and that signalled the time for Jim Gavin to empty his bench as he rested some of his first team players for the battles ahead.

That disrupted Dublin’s flow a little and allowed Roscommon to briefly get on the front foot and to their credit they kept going till the end with Niall Daly, Conor Hussey, Mullooly and Cox adding points to give a gloss to the final score.

Dublin’s Paddy Small impressed after being introduced scoring three excellent points as Dublin secured their semi final spot with a game in hand with the final score against the Rossies, 2-26 to 0-14.

With both Dublin and Tyrone already qualified for the semi finals there was little hype for their phase 3 dead rubber game in Omagh.

The big talking point in the lead up to the game was the return of Diarmuid Connolly to the squad after over a year out.

Jim Gavin dropped the bombshell in an interview days before with DubsTV, as the Dublin manager was conducting his interview he nonchalantly dropped Connolly’s name in the middle of the conversation didn’t even blink and continued to speak, most supporters had to rewind the interview to make sure they had heard Gavin correctly.

The question now was would Diarmuid see any game time in Omagh.

With nothing to play for in Healy Park both sides made wholesale changes, Jim Gavin made 13 and Mickey Harte went even further making a full 15 changes to his side.

There was a huge cheer from the sizeable travelling Dublin support when Diarmuid Connolly’s name was announced as the stadium announcer went through the starting teams, with the St Vincent’s man named in midfield for the Dubs.

Connolly’s lack of game time at inter-County level was not surprisingly visible but he certainly did his bit for Dublin’s win with some classy touches and movement around midfield, he won a mark from a kick-out, effortlessly stroked over a brilliant point with the outside of his foot and sprayed around some eye catching passes throughout the game.

Even Comerford was in goal for Dublin and Tyrone decided to test the young keepers mettle and aerial ability with a serious of bombs in his direction.

Comerford coped admirably with everthing Tyrone threw at him and the speed and accuracy of his restarts cemented his reputation as the natural successor to Stephen Cluxton when he decides to hang up his boots.

The game itself was little more than a light training session for both teams with little in the way to write about.

Gavin gave maiden championship starts to Sean Bugler and Paddy Small, both impressed particularly Bugler who scored 0-03 and set up second half substitute Eoghan O’Gara for a late goal.

Cormac Costello top scored with 0-06 and Kevin McManamon, Paddy Andrews and Bernard Brogan all got in on the scoring act as Dublin eased to a six point win by 1-16 to 0-13.

Next up for Gavin and his troops were the side who gave them their sternest tests during this decade of the dubs, old foes Mayo.

The Decade of the Dubs will be remembered not just for the history making, record breaking and multiple All Ireland, Leinster and League titles but also their many tussles with Mayo.

Dublin handed the men from the West heavy defeats during the league through the decade, but championship meetings between the teams were always close (bar the 2015 semi-final replay which Dublin won by 7) with only a point or two separating them at the finish.

The 2019 All Ireland semi final meeting between the two combatants was a completely different story. Mayo led at half-time by two points, but 12 minutes of the most complete football seen in Croke Park after the break by Dublin blew Mayo away and it was an absolute rout by the defending champions by the finish with ten points separating the teams.

Leaving the Jones Road venue the feeling was it was the end of an era for that particular Mayo team and the last time a number of players would represent their County.

Mayo started well, they won the throw-in and pinned Dublin inside their own half for the first few minutes.

They made their territorial advantage count and a Cillian O’Connor converted free and super point from Seamus O’Shea gave James Horan’s men a two point lead.

But Dublin looked threatening in their very first attack, Con O’Callaghan cut inside his marker Lee Keegan, but the defender got back to make a vital tackle which took the sting out of the Dublin attackers shot at goal and Hennelly saved easily, but it was a sign of things to come from O’Callaghan.

Two Dean Rock frees brought the sides level by the 11th minute, Mayo briefly regained the lead with a James Carr point but Horan’s side looked vulnerable every time the Dubs attacked.

Mayo keeper Rob Hennelly got a little cocky and advanced with the ball 50 metres from his goal, but his pass to Aidan O’Shea was turned over and with the keeper scurrying back to his line Paul Mannion slotted the ball over the bar for Dublin’s first point from play.

There was more trouble for Mayo with the restart as Hennelly’s attempted short kick-out was knocked away from its intended target by O’Callaghan and Mannion kicked his second point.

James Horan’s men dominated the second quarter and out scored Dublin by five points to one, Brian Howard kicked a late first half point – the Dubs first in 22 minutes to leave Jim Gavin’s side two adrift at the break with the score 0-08 to 0-06.

The 12 minutes directly after the restart will be spoken about for generations as Dublin put in the most devastating and powerful passage of play ever seen in the famous stadium.

During this mesmerising spell Jim Gavin’s men hit an unanswered 2-06 to turn a two point deficit in an unassailable ten point lead.

Dublin completely destroyed Mayo’s kick-out strategy winning the Westerners first five restarts.

Captain Stephen Cluxton kick started the blistering spell when he stopped a Paddy Durcan point attempt, the ball was worked up along the Cusack stand side and Ciaran Kilkenny released Con O’Callaghan who drove the ball low past Hennelly and into the net.

Four quick points followed with Paul Mannion tearing the Mayo defence apart, the game was all but wrapped up in the 46th minute, Kilkenny floated a ball into the danger zone, Con O’Callaghan rose to collect the ball and jinked inside Keegan leaving him sitting on his backside and buried the ball for Dublin’s second goal.

There was one last act of deviance from Mayo with 20 minutes left when Lee Keegan got inside the Dublin defence and side footed the ball past Cluxton, it was the first goal from play that Dublin had conceded to that point of the 2019 championship.

This time though there wasn’t to be one of those heroic comebacks for James Horan’s side and the final nail in their coffin arrived in the 60th minute when Con O’Callaghan picked out the rampaging figure of Brian Fenton who made no mistake and hit a powerful strike to the net.

Dublin’s fans were treated to the sight of Diarmuid Connolly being introduced late in the game and Mayo finished the game with 14 players when Cillian O’Connor received a second yellow card, in truth it should have been a straight red for a strike off the ball.

When the final whistle went there was now doubt that Mayo had been well and truly beaten and the scoreboard reflected as much as it read, Dublin 3-14, Mayo 1-10.

All Ireland final day arrived and Dublin were just 70 odd minutes away from sporting immortality, standing in their way of completing the elusive five in-a-row were a young Kerry team.

Kerry themselves had failed to do the five in-a-row back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when Mick O’Dwyers team fell at the final hurdle to a shock defeat by Offaly and that famous Seamus Darby goal.

So Kerry had plenty of motivation ahead of their meeting with the Dubs, win and not only would they claim the All Ireland title but also stop Jim Gavin’s men achieving something their own county with all the great teams they had down the years couldn’t do.

The final itself was absorbing and was full to the brim with drama, goals, a sending off, a late equalising point and a difficult chance in the final seconds to win it, but in the end the sides had to settle for a draw and go again two weeks later.

The two sides felt each other out in the opening quarter of the game and at that stage Kerry led by 0-05 to 0-04 thanks to the accuracy of Seanie O’Shea from dead balls.

Kerry also missed an early penalty awarded for a foul on David Clifford by Jonny Cooper it looked a very harsh call. Paul Geaney was entrusted with the spot kick but Cluxton dived brilliantly to turn the effort around the post.

Kerry were putting Cluxtons kick-outs under pressure and the Parnell’s man struggled to find his targets with three in a row falling into Kerry hands.

But he soon found his range and he hit a marvellous kick-out towards Brian Howard who rose majestically to win the ball, he offloaded to Kilkenny who passed to Macauley who picked out Jack McCaffrey breaking forward at pace and the Clontarf man finished superbly to the net.

The Dubs aggressively pushed up on the Kerry restarts and keeper Shane Ryan repeatedly turned over the ball, O’Callaghan and Mannion tagged on points and heading to the break Dublin were five up and looking completely in charge.

But a minute before the short whistle that changed when Jonny Cooper picked up a second yellow card and subsequent red and Dublin had to play out the remainder of the final with 14.

The men from the Kingdom enjoyed the opening second half exchanges and reduced the gap to just two points but Dublin moved through the gears and three points from wing-back Jack McCaffrey who was scintillating throughout in a man of the match performance pushed Jim Gavin’s side back in front by five.

Cluxton pulled off a stunning fingertip save from a Paul Murphy shot at goal to send the ball crashing off the crossbar, but he couldn’t do anything to stop Kerry’s next effort at goal.

Tommy Walsh was introduced on 53 minutes, three minutes later and he challenged for a high ball with David Byrne, the Dublin defender initially won the ball, but as he landed the ball squirmed from his grasp, Walsh pounced and ran clear, he passed the ball to the onrushing Killian Spillane who planted the ball past Cluxton.

That gave Kerry the shot in the arm they needed and Walsh and Sean O’Shea slotted over a point each to draw level.

Dean Rock popped over a free in the 65th minute to give Dublin a 1-15 to 1-14 lead, but Kerry hit straight back with points from O’Shea and Spillane to retake the lead with the game heading into added time.

Although having played a man down for over a half of the game Dublin were still full of running and hunted down the ball in an effort to grab the equaliser and four minutes into the seven added on Dean Rock supplied the finish and this pulsating Final was level again.

Kerry were seriously flagging at this stage and the boys in blue held on to possession and probed for an opening.

They drew a foul on the Cusack Stand side and Dean Rock had the chance to win it for Dublin, but it was an extremely difficult kick and his effort just tailed wide of the post and History was suspended for two weeks at least with the final score 1-16 apiece.

The lead up to the replay was a lot quieter but the general consensus was that Kerry had missed their chance and that Jim Gavin would have learnt more from the drawn final than Peter Keane and with a full complement of 15 players on the pitch and the fact that a number of Dublin players who had been uncharacteristically quiet in the first game wouldn’t be in the replay Jim Gavin’s side would complete the job this time round.

The opening half was as breathtaking as the first game, Dublin raced into a 0-07 to 0-03 lead in the opening quarter only for Kerry to reel them back in and the teams headed to the dressing rooms under the Hogan Stand tied.

But Dublin did what Dublin have done to opposition teams throughout the decade and drove on in the second half blitzing Kerry and claimed their piece of history.

Dublin won the break of the ball from the throw-in and worked the ball quickly into Con O’Callaghan who cut through the Kerry defence for the games opening point. Ciaran Kilkenny then pointed off his left in Dublin’s second attack to get the Dubs off to the perfect start.

A jersey pull by John Small resulted in a free for Kerry which Sean O’Shea converted to get the men from the Kingdom up and running.

Dublin responded with an exquisite point from Paul Mannion who cut in from the right wing to curl a beautiful score. Three attacks and three points for Gavin’s side.

Three minutes later it was four from four as Con O’Callaghan created an opportunity for Kilkenny who scored his second of the game.

Kerry at the other end decided to test Dublin under the high ball but to no effect as three long balls aimed at the Dublin square were expertly dealt with by Cluxton.

It was a four point lead in the 8th minute after a powerful run from Brian Fenton drew three Kerry players towards him and he offloaded to Mannion who had all the time and space he needed to slot over his second point and Dublin’s fifth.

Eleven minutes in and Paul Geaney collected a hand pass on the edge of the square, he got a half glance at the Dublin goal but blazed his effort over for Kerry’s second point of the final.

Stephen O’Brien popped the ball off to David Clifford who although surrounded still managed to squeeze the ball over the bar.

But at the other end O’Callaghan was causing serious problems for Tom O’Sullivan just as he had in the drawn game and grabbed his second point to give the Dubs a three point advantage.

Just past the quarter hour mark and Kerry were made to pay for standing off Dublin defender David Byrne and the corner back drove forward and confidently swung the ball over the bar.

Kerry needed a response and David Clifford provided it with two well taken points in a row.

Back came Dublin, Ciaran Kilkenny playing more direct than he had in the drawn game took on Gavin Crowley and scored his third point of the half.

Paul Geaney pulled one back for Kerry as the action hotted up and the play ebbed and flowed from one end of the pitch to the other.

Tom O’Sullivan just couldn’t handle Con O’Callaghan and the Cuala man skinned him and blazed a goal effort over the bar. Tadhg Morley was fouled as he headed towards goal and O’Shea converted the free to leave just a point in it.

O’Callaghan then rose to catch a long ball, turned towards the Kerry goal and fed Dean Rock who scored on the loop.

But Kerry finished the half in the ascendency and a free from O’Shea and a point from Geaney levelled the match and teams were deadlocked at the break at 0-10 each.

Jack McCaffrey was forced off at half time with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Diarmuid Connolly with Brian Howard switching to midfield and James McCarthy dropped into the defence.

The stadium erupted seconds after the restart, Eoin Murchan a late addition to the team stole in to nip the ball from David Moran from the throw-in, he took off from the halfway towards the Kerry goal, Moran tried desperately to stop him in his tracks fouling the Na Fianna man a number of the times, but he continued his run an unleashed a rocket of a shot into the back of the Kerry net.

A minute later and a quick ball into O’Callaghan worked a treat, he turned his man and despite a jersey pull scored his fourth point of the final and Dublin led by four.

Kerry responded with two points in a row from Clifford and Geaney to half the deficit.

A super point from Sean O’Shea from about forty metres out reduced the gap to one but Dublin broke down the other end and a terrific pass from Diarmuid Connolly picked out Ciaran Kilkenny who scored his fourth point of the day.

Dublin were dominating the possession and played keep ball for at least two minutes probing for an opening, Brian Fenton was denied a score by a tackle from O’Brien but the ball broke to Mannion who slotted over.

In the 54th minute Kerry worked a goal chance when O’Brien broke the tackle and was in on goal but Cluxton was on the top of his game and saved the effort.

Two minutes later and Jonny Cooper from a free played the ball into Paul Mannion and the Kilmacud Crokes man grabbed another point.

Tommy Walsh was then introduced by Kerry off the bench to use his aerial presence to get back in the game. He won a free off Philly McMahon who was brought in by Gavin to mark Walsh and Clifford converted the free to leave three in it.

A stunning long pass from Connolly picked out Niall Scully and he blasted a shot over the bar from point blank range, it could have quiet easily ended up in the net.

Killian Spillane who scored Kerry’s goal in the drawn game was brought on and Gavin made a substitution of his own springing Cormac Costello from the bench.

With eight minutes of normal time remaining Dublin pulled five clear with a brilliant point from James McCarthy who ran down the right wing and split the posts with a well struck shot. O’Shea pulled one back for Kerry.

In the 70th minute Dean Rock scored a point to put five between the sides again and Dublin needed to see out five minutes of added time.

They did it on the front foot, in the 72nd minute Kerry netminder Shane Ryan was forced into a double save from Connolly and O’Callaghan and Rock converted the subsequent 45’ to stretch the lead to six.

Kerry needed goals to get back in it and launched a long ball in on top of the square but Dublin dealt with it easily and moments later the full time whistle blew to a rapturous roar, five in-a-row secured and history made.

Stephen Cluxton climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to raise the Sam Maguire high into the Dublin sky for the fifth year in a row and the team celebrated with fans around the stadium on their lap of honour.

There was the strange sight of Jim Gavin, Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock joining the players for the lap of honour and waving to the crowd, they had never done that before.

Some put it down to the significance of the win and the piece of history that was made, but it felt like a goodbye and weeks later it was proven to be so as Jim announced he was stepping down.

What a Decade of the Dubs though it has been and what joy it has brought to the Dublin supporters over those ten years.

Dublin are immortalised in annals of GAA history and that can never be taken from them, even if and it’s a big if, another county completes a five in-a-row in the future, Dublin will always be the first team ever to achieve it in the history of the GAA.

We enter a new decade under a new manager in the shape of Dessie Farrell, can Dublin supporters dream of an equally successful next ten years, time will tell.

One thing is for sure the Decade of the Dubs from 2010 to 2019 will never be forgotten as the exploits of the Dublin team during that period surpassed even that of the great Dublin side of the 70’s as they became the record breaking, history making seven times champions of Ireland.

To all the players, Jim Gavin, Pat Gilroy and their management teams thanks for the memories.