The 2015-2017 Segment Of The Decade Of The Dubs Included A First Treble Of Consecutive All Ireland Titles Since 1921-1923
In part two of our look back on the Decade of the Dubs we take in the years 2015 to 2017 as Dublin set out to put the shock defeat of 2014 firmly behind them.
What followed was three magical years of exciting record breaking Football from Jim Gavin’s men as they claimed three All Ireland titles in a row which set them up to chase the elusive five in-a-row and a unique piece of history.
The shock 2014 semi final defeat was still reverberating heading into the 2015 season and the word was Jim Gavin was obsessed with finding a system to beat the blanket defence that many teams were employing without leaving his own backline exposed and also without curbing his sides attacking prowess.
Cian O’Sullivan was stationed as a sweeper in front of the back three to make sure Dublin wouldn’t be as supseptable to the counter-attack as they had been in 2014. And Brian Fenton a player who was to have such a huge influence just not on the season but every season since was introduced into the squad.
Dublin started the National League with a defeat to Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn but enacted revenge on Donegal in the next round winning by 2-10 to 0-11. A defeat away to Kerry in the next game though put Dublin near the bottom of the table.
But a draw and three wins in their remaining games secured a league semi final berth and a tense battle with Monaghan, Dublin just got over the line with a 0-17 to 0-16 win to set up a final tussle with Cork.
As League finals go this was a fairly routine win for Gavin’s men, they held Cork to just nine scores throughout, albeit two of those were goals and reeled off 22 scores of their own in a dominant 1-21 to 2-07 victory and their third league title in a row.
The Leinster championship of 2015 was like many in this Decade Of The Dubs, dominated by the Sky Blues as they swatted Longford, Kildare and Westmeath aside to claim their fifth Delaney Cup in a row. During the campaign Dublin scored 11-56 while conceding just 0-30.
The All Ireland quarter final against Fermanagh was a strange game, Dublin dominated the game hardly getting out of third gear.
They led 1-13 to 0-06 by halftime and were thirteen points clear with ten minutes left on the clock. But Sean Quigley knocked Stephen Cluxton who was in possession of the ball into the net, instead of awarding a free out for the blatant foul, the goal was awarded.
Another Fermanagh goal in injury time put a further gloss on the final scoreline that read 2-23 to 2-15 in Dublin’s favour and with the job done in somewhat bizarre circumstances a meeting with old foes Mayo awaited in the semi final.
Dublin started the semi final brightly and led by 1-03 to 0-01 in the early stages. The Dublin goal came via an expertly taken Diarmuid Connolly penalty which was awarded after Paul Flynn was upended by Jason Doherty.
Mayo had stationed Aidan O’Shea at full forward and hit plenty of ball in the direction of the big man but with very little success and that left them heavily reliant on frees from Cillian O’Connor for scores. By the break Dublin led by 1-07 to 0-07.
The men from the West showed all their fighting spirit to reduce the deficit to just one point in the early part of the second half, but Jim Gavin’s side hit a purple patch and when Kevin McManamon hit the Dubs second goal in the 58th minute it looked like Mayo’s goose was cooked with Dublin leading 2-12 to 0-11.
But a couple of injuries late in the game, the black carding of midfielders Michael Darragh Macauley and Denis Bastick and a red card for Diarmuid Connolly all helped to turn the game in Mayo’s favour.
The comeback started with a penalty awarded in the 69th minute for a foul on Colm Boyle which was dispatched by Cillian O’Connor and a late equaliser from Andy Moran insured the teams would have to meet again as the game finished 2-12 to 1-15.
The replay the following week was just as exciting as both teams went toe to toe in the first half. Aidan O’Shea was once more played in the full forward line, but Philly McMahon completely shackled his influence on the game and Mayo were once again reliant on the free taking ability of O’Connor for scores.
It was tit for tat throughout the pulsating first half and at the break the sides were deadlocked at 0-10 apiece.
Mayo dominated the opening 20 minutes of the second half and led by 1-12 to 0-11 with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
Andy Moran made an incisive run through the Dublin defence and offloaded the ball to Cillian O’Connor who volleyed past the onrushing Stephen Cluxton for the games opening goal and Dublin looked in trouble especially as they had managed just a single point from a free in twenty second half minutes.
But champions always find a way to win and Dublin blitzed Mayo in the final quarter.
James McCarthy began the scoring spree with a brilliantly taken long range point.
Dublin then broke forward at pace and a misplaced shot at goal was redirected by Bernard Brogan to the back of the net and the stadium erupted.
Brogan then turned provider, he gathered the ball along the end line made a determined run towards the goal despite the attention of two Mayo players and the advancing keeper and hand passed the ball across the goal for Philly McMahon to palm to the net and suddenly Dublin led by 2-13 to 1-12.
In the 67th minute it was game, set and match, Fenton burst forward and fed the ball to Kevin McManamon who buried a left footed shot past Rob Hennelly and Dublin secured their place in the All Ireland Final against Kerry.
The weather on All Ireland Final day was miserable as the rain poured down on the Jones Road venue.
With slippery underfoot conditions and the ball harder to handle than a wet bar of soap it was never going to be anything like the high scoring shootout the two teams produced just two seasons previous.
In the end the scoreline wasn’t an accurate reflection on how dominant Dublin were throughout and in the end Kerry were lucky the weather had been so bad or they would have been beaten out the gate.
The five in a row Leinster champions attacked from the off and led by two points early on, but the conditions were hampering both sides efforts at finding scores and the ball was turned over by both sides quicker than a toupee in a hurricane and with twenty minutes gone both sides could only muster three points apiece.
It was at this point that Dublin hit their best patch of the game and points from Jack McCaffrey, Philly McMahon and Paddy Andrews helped Gavin’s side to a double-scores advantage at the break with the scoreboard at the Davin End reading 0-08 to 0-04.
Kevin McManamon was introduced at half-time which must have sent shivers down the Kerry supporters spines with memories of the ‘Kerry Killers’ exploits in previous years.
With Philly McMahon keeping Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper quiet Kerry we’re struggling to reel Dublin back in and the closest the men from the Kingdom got to the Dubs was two points.
Dominating throughout Dublin created and spurned three great goal chances that fell to Dean Rock, Brian Fenton and Paddy Andrews which would have completely finished off Kerry and on the wet surface where one slip in defence could prove costly there was always the chance that Kerry could capitalise on those missed opportunities.
Paul Flynn though hit two crucial points in the second half to keep daylight between the sides. Outplayed and outfought amazingly Kerry were just three adrift heading into the final embers of the game.
Kieran Donaghy had been introduced in a desperate effort to get back in the game and it almost paid off.
In the 67th minute Donaghy won a high ball and fed defender Killian Young close to goal, but with the whites of Cluxton’s eyes in his sight he fumbled the wet ball and Dublin cleared the goal threat.
It would have been a travesty if Kerry had scored an undeserved equaliser at that stage and substitute Alan Brogan made sure that the All Ireland title would be residing in the capital for the next twelve months at least with a brilliant insurance point and Dublin were champions for the third time in five seasons.
The first competitive game of 2016 was a repeat of the previous years All Ireland Final and Kerry arrived in Croke Park for their National League clash against Dublin with a point to prove.
Once again though it was the Dubs who prevailed thanks in no small measure to goals from Diarmuid Connolly and Paddy Andrews as the boys in blue recorded a 2-14 to 0-14 win.
Dublin determined to once again hold onto their league crown went unbeaten through all seven regulation rounds in Division 1 beating Mayo, Monaghan, Cork, Down, Donegal and Roscommon scoring an incredible 8-89.
That set up a semi final meeting with Donegal who Jim Gavin’s side had beaten in round 6 by 1-10 to 0-07.
Again Dublin claimed the victory this time even more emphatically on a scoreline of 1-20 to 0-13 to secure their league final spot and a third meeting with Kerry in a few short months.
Heading into the final all the talk was Kerry needed the win more than the Dubs considering that they had lost the last three high profile championship meetings between the sides.
Dublin’s hunger though for more silverware was not found wanting in the game and it turned into an exciting tussle in front of a packed house at Croke Park.
In a fairly even first half it was Dublin who finished the half strongly in particular Bernard Brogan who escaped the shackles of Marc Ó Shea three times late on in the half to clip over three vital points and Dublin led at the break by 0-10 to 0-08.
The Dubs doubled their lead early in the second half, but points from Peter Crowley, Donaghy and Darren O’Sullivan reduced the deficit to a single point.
But that’s as close as Kerry got and their task was made all the more difficult with the sending off Aidan O’Mahony in the 51st minute for an incident involving Jonny Cooper which left the Na Fianna man grounded.
With just three minutes left in the game and Dublin leading by four Paul Flynn pounced on a wayward short kick-out by Brendan Kealy in the Kerry goal and the Fingallians clubman hit a rocket of a shot past the Kerry netminder.
Substitute Eric Lowndes added a second goal in injury time to seal a comprehensive win for the Dubs by 2-18 to 0-13 and the Division 1 National League title was secured for the fourth year on the trot.
Dublin headed into the championship on the back of a 22 game unbeaten run. The Leinster championship started with the novelty of a first away trip of the decade in the competition with Nowlan Park in Kilkenny the venue for Dublin’s quarter final meeting with Laois.
Hordes of Dublin supporters descended on the home of Kilkenny hurling and created a carnival atmosphere in the famous stadium.
It might have been a new venue but it was business as usual with goals from Diarmuid Connolly and Dean Rock easing Jim Gavin’s side to a 2-21 to 2-10 victory.
A comprehensive 0-21 to 0-11 win over Meath in the semi final set up a Leinster final meeting with Westmeath. There was plenty of confident talk from the Midlanders ahead of the final but they were no match for Dublin’s pace, power and scoring prowess on the day.
Dean Rock finished top scorer with 0-08 and he was ably supported by Bernard Brogan who grabbed 1-04 and Kevin McManamon hit 1-02 in the 2-19 to 0-10 win and the Delaney Cup continued its long stay in the Capital.
Donegal were the opposition in the All Ireland quarter final and provided a stern test for the Dubs. Dean Rock and Philly McMahon got on the scoresheet early on but Michael Murphy drew the sides level by the 19th minute.
Dublin got their running game going and hit three points in a row to put a bit of daylight between the teams.
Connolly and Paddy Andrews added two sumptuous points and further points from Rock and Connolly gave Dublin a 0-09 to 0-04 half-time lead.
But eight minutes into the second half Ryan McHugh palmed an Eamonn McGee cross into the net past Stephen Cluxton and memories of 2014 flooded back.
It got worse for the Sky Blues when they were reduced to 14 men just three minutes later with Diarmuid Connolly picking up a second booking and subsequent red card.
There was no panic though in the Dublin ranks and they displayed confidence and composure in possession. And despite losing substitute Eoghan O’Gara to a straight red card minutes after entering the action and a late black card for Brian Fenton, Paul Mannion sealed the deal as he slalomed his way through the Donegal defence to score a brilliant goal late into stoppage time.
Croke Park was packed to the rafters for their All Ireland semi final against Kerry. And the two teams served up a thriller for those in attendance.
Dublin held the Indian sign over Kerry during this Decade of the Dubs and by the 25th minute of the first half it looked like it was going to be the same old story for Kerry as they trailed by five points with the score 0-09 to 0-04.
But ten minutes of madness descended on the game as Kerry turned the tie on its head. The men in green and gold pushed right up on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs and the Parnells man was unusually rattled.
Kerry scored 2-04 without reply before the break, the goals coming from Darren O’Sullivan and Paul Geaney and Dublin were relieved to hear the half-time whistle with the score 2-08 to 0-09.
Dublin regrouped during the interval and came roaring out of the blocks hitting six points in the third quarter, four from Dean Rock and one apiece from Bernard Brogan and Brian Fenton with just a single point in reply coming from Colm Cooper and with twenty minutes left in the game the sides were tied.
Barry John Keane and James O’Donoghue restored a two point lead for Kerry, but Dublin finished the game strongly and points from Connolly(2), McManamon and O’Gara secured a 0-22 to 2-14 win and a place in the All Ireland Final against Mayo.
Another dreadful day weather wise greeted both Dublin and Mayo on All Ireland Final day. The supporters from the West of Ireland arrived to Croke Park in cocky mood and sure this was their day.
That confidence looked to be dead on the money as Mayo tore into a nervous looking Dublin side.
Tom Parsons and Cillian O’Connor knocked over points and Stephen Cluxton had to save a fisted effort from Aidan O’Shea to keep Mayo from scoring the first major of the final. Moments later Jonny Copper made a timely block on a Patrick Durcan effort at goal.
Dublin finally settled and nine minutes in got the first goal of the game albeit via an own goal. David Clarke made a brilliant save from a Brian Fenton piledriver at goal but the ball hit the retreating Kevin McLoughlin and ended up in the net.
O’Connor scored his second free of the game to level things up again but Mayo amazingly conceded a second own goal in the 22nd minute.
Dean Rock failed to gather a delivery from Diarmuid Connolly but the ball spilled into the path of Colm Boyle who was running back towards his own goal and he inadvertently diverted the ball past Clarke and into the net.
To add to what had become a bizarre half Dublin now led by three points despite the fact that no Dublin player had scored inside the opening 30 minutes.
Dean Rock ended that sequence with a 13 metre free and substitute Paddy Andrews in for the black carded James McCarthy hit two exquisite efforts over the bar and at the break Dublin led by 2-04 to 0-05.
Mayo had a whirlwind start to the second half scoring five points in a row to bring parity on the scoreboard. Dublin rallied and went two points ahead courtesy of the boot of Dean Rock.
Mayo introduces Alan Dillon off the bench and he brought the sides level for the third time in the game.
Jim Gavin’s side though continued to pick off the scores they needed to retake the lead and when Diarmuid Connolly swung over a point to give Dublin a three point advantage with two minutes remaining it looked like they had done enough to claim the title.
But as Mayo had proved before they are a resilient bunch and they battled for their lives in the final minutes and their endeavours were rewarded with points for O’Connor from a free and an excellent point from Donie Vaughan to leave just a point in it with the game in stoppage time.
In the dying seconds Aidan O’Shea won possession fed the ball to O’Connor and he hit the equaliser to send the tie to a replay.
The replay took place two weeks later in front of 82,249 spectators in Croke Park and the two teams served up another thriller.
Dublin had lacked intensity in the drawn game but it was there in abundance in the replay as they raced into a four point lead, Dean Rock hit three of them with two beauty’s from open play.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochfort took a gamble by changing his goalkeeper for the replay with Rob Hennelly coming in for David Clarke. It backfired spectacularly in the early stages as his poor kick-outs put his side under pressure leading to the early concession of points.
The men from the West though settled into the game and were level by the 13th minute with points from Patrick Durcan and a couple of Cillian O’Connor frees.
Rock edged Dublin back in front by two, but Mayo struck for the games opening goal, Aidan O,Shea off-loaded to the onrushing Lee Keegan who calmly slotted the ball past Stephen Cluxton into the bottom corner of the net.
The Dubs then lost Jonny Cooper to a black card in the 19th minute, but Mayo were guilty of ill discipline in the tackle and were subsequently punished by Dean Rock who nudged Dublin back in front.
The game was level for the third time when O’Connor converted a free for a foul on Colm Boyle, but Hennelly’s poor distribution continued to be Mayo’s achilles heel and another poor kick-out led to a black card for Lee Keegan in the 35th minute and Dublin took the lead again.
Things got heated in injury time as tension built to fever pitch and there were cards shown to Diarmuid Connolly, John Small and Donal Vaughan, the half time whistle sounded and defending champions Dublin took a one point advantage into the dressing rooms with the score 0-10 to 1-06.
An injured Vaughan failed to reappear for the second half but it had little impact on their restart as they took the lead with points from the O’Connor brothers.
But the Hennelly experiment ended in calamity, a Paul Flynn point effort dropped short and the Mayo net-minder fumbled what was a routine catch into the arms of Paddy Andrews and Hennelly dragged him down in the square.
The keeper was black carded and replaced with David Clarke who’s first job was to face a penalty from Diarmuid Connolly.
The St Vincent’s man put the ball on the spot took a couple steps back, strode forward and drilled the ball to the corner of the net.
Brendan Harrison and Stephen Coen combined to deny Kevin McManamon shortly afterwards and Mayo counter attacked and cut the deficit with a point from Kevin McLoughlin.
Cormac Costello was introduced off the bench and made an immediate impact hitting three sublime scores in the closing stages, but the Dubs just couldn’t shake off Mayo and they clawed their way back into the game and a ninth O’Connor free left just one between the teams.
Deep into stoppage time O’Connor had the chance to bring the decider into extra-time, but his effort from a free on the Hogan Stand side drifted to the left of the post and Jim Gavin’s side held on for a 1-15 to 1-14 win and Dublin retained the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1977.
Heading into the 2017 National football league talk of breaking a record that had stood for 84 years began.
The great Kerry side of the late 20’s early 30’s held the longest unbeaten record between league and championship which stood at 34 games. Dublin were five unbeaten games short of equaling the record and six from breaking it.
Could Dublin go on and break the record, well in this The Decade of the Dubs records were sent tumbling throughout and this one was no different.
A trip to Breffni Park to face Cavan in the opening league game yielded a seven point win by 0-18 to 0-11 and the unbeaten run continued.
Dublin’s resilience though was tested to the full in the next few games, in round two against Tyrone in Croke Park it looked very much that Dublin would fall short of that unbeaten record as they found themselves five points down with ten minutes remaining.
But like true champions Dublin staged a fight back and a monster 45’ from Dean Rock in the 74th minute claimed a dramatic draw to keep the Dubs unbeaten record intact.
Next was a trip to Ballybofey and a meeting with Donegal in round 3, Dublin were the better side in the first half and looked likely to take a three point lead with them at the break.
But two goals from Donegal in a 40 second spell just before halftime turned the game on its head and the host incredibly led at the short whistle by 2-02 to 0-05.
A Michael Murphy pointed free early in the second half stretched the lead to four but Dublin seized control of the game again, two Dean Rock frees, a brilliantly worked goal finished to the net by Niall Scully and a point from Davey Byrne put Dublin 1-08 to 2-03 in front.
But Donegal were controversially awarded two late, late frees scored by Ciaran Thompson and Michael Murphy to earn a draw with the final score Dublin 1-08, Donegal 2-05.
Next up was another tussle with Mayo in Croke Park the first meeting between the teams since the previous years All Ireland Final.
But unlike the two tense and tight meetings the previous September this one was a comprehensive win for Jim Gavin’s men as 1-03 from Conor McHugh, 0-08 from Dean Rock and a brace of points from defenders Philly McMahon and Eric Lowndes helped Dublin brush aside the Mayo challenge in a 12 point victory by 1-16 to 0-07 and Dublin were just one unbeaten game away from equaling the record.
Sport has a love of irony and it was perhaps ironic and fitting that the team that was to try and stop the 84 year old unbeaten record held by Kerry was in fact Kerry on their home patch of Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
It was a tense ill tempered affair and Kerry were thankful for a very lenient referee in the shape of Sean Hurson who at times turned a blind eye to the numerous off the ball hits Kerry engaged in throughout the game with some of their tackling more suited to a game of rugby or an MMA fight and it would have been a travesty if it was the underhand tactics that scuppered Dublin’s chance to equal the record.
The stop-start nature and numerous scuffles contributed to a low scoring first half.
Kerry led by 0-04 to 0-02 after twenty eight minutes, but three Dean Rock converted frees pushed Dublin into the lead a minute before the break, but Paul Geaney equalised to leave it all square at the halftime with the teams tied at 0-05 apiece.
By the 43rd minute Kerry led by four, but Dublin showed all their character and will to win as they held Kerry scoreless for the next 19 minutes and hit six unanswered points of their own in this period, four successful frees from Dean Rock and a point apiece from Conor McHugh and Eoghan O’Gara.
Paul Geaney hit back with two points to draw the teams level again and when Barry John Keane and Donnchadh Walsh put Kerry two ahead as the game headed into added time it looked like the Dubs would come up short.
But somehow as they always have they found a way back, a Dean Rock free in the 72nd minute left the bare minimum between the teams and moments later Paul Mannion was the coolest man in the cauldron and he slotted over the equaliser and the game ended 0-13 each and Dublin had equalled the record.
Roscommon were the next opponents and anything other than a defeat would see Dublin claim the unbeaten record all to the themselves.
And so it was to pass as the Dubs destroyed Roscommon by 2-29 to 0-14 with the goals coming from Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon.
The men from the capital finished off against Monaghan in round seven and goals from substitutes Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey secured a 2-15 to 1-15 win and Dublin finished top of the division 1 table and set up a league final meeting with Kerry.
Dublin were instilled as favourites to make it five league titles in a row and they bossed the first half of the final, Paddy Andrews was winning most of the ball coming his way and causing havoc while at the other end the ball into the Kerry full forward line wasn’t sticking thanks in no short measure to brilliant job being done by Cian O’Sullivan in the sweeper role.
Kerry were struggling with securing possession from their own kick-outs as Dublin pushed up on Brendan Kealy’s restarts and with ten minutes to go to the break Dublin led by three.
But Kerry stayed in touch on the scoreboard and hit two points before the halftime break and when the whistle sounded only trailed by a single point with the score 0-10 to 0-09.
It was a different story after the break as Dublin failed to show up in the opening quarter of the second period and Kerry hit six unanswered points to lead by five.
Dublin substitute Paul Mannion hit the Sky Blues first point of the second half in the 53rd minute.
The Dublin comeback though was kick started with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
David Byrne kept a wayward Cluxton kick-out in play, the ball was worked up along the left flank to Macauley who slipped the ball into Mannion who shot low into the net and it was game on.
Kerry were now under all sorts of pressure, they initially kicked on with a pointed Geaney free and one from open play from David Moran to lead by three.
But Dublin outscored Kerry in the closing stages by three points to one and as defender Michael Fitzsimons broke straight through the middle and headed for goal David Moran cynically dragged him to the ground.
Moran received a black card but had committed the foul far enough from goal to make it difficult for Dean Rock to score and level the game, Rock gave it his best effort but the ball struck the right hand upright and kindly dropped into the hands of a Kerry player.
The referee blew the full time whistle and Kerry held on for a one point win with the final score Kerry 0-20, Dublin 1-16 and the men from the Kingdom secured the league title and ended Dublin’s 36 game unbeaten run.
That league defeat had some questioning if Dublin could complete the All Ireland three in a row.
They opened their Leinster campaign with a routine win over Carlow. Although it was an incident in the game involving Diarmuid Connolly that grabbed all the headlines and the media began a witch-hunt against the Dublin player which resulted in a lengthy ban which ruled Connolly out of action till the All Ireland semi finals.
A facile Leinster semi final cakewalk over Westmeath by 4-29 to 0-10 with Dean Rock, Ciaran Kilkenny, Eoghan O’Gara and Kevin McManamon supplying the goals set up a Leinster final against Kildare.
Kildare gave a good account of themselves in the final, but in the end Dublin’s superior pace, power and finishing ability won out on the day.
The game will be remembered as the day Con O’Callaghan came of age as the Cuala clubman helped himself to a dozen points is a sparkling display.
The writing was on the wall early on as the Dubs raced into a 2-03 to 0-01 lead inside the opening 11 minutes.
The first goal was poetry in motion, Ciaran Kilkenny picked out Dean Rock with a clever fist pass and the Ballymun Kickhams man clinically slotted the ball low into the left corner of the net.
Moments later and Kilkenny played a neat one-two with James McCarthy who cut inside a Kildare defender and slid a low shot beneath Mark Donnellan in the Kildare goal and it looked like it would be a long afternoon for the Lilywhites.
To their credit though Kildare settled and played some scintillating football till the break out scoring Dublin by nine points to four and trailed by just four points at halftime with the score 2-08 to 0-10.
But Dublin hit a flurry of points in the third quarter to put daylight between the teams with Paddy Andrews, Bernard Brogan, O’Callaghan and Kilkenny among those that split the posts and Dublin ran out comfortable winners to claim their seventh Leinster title in a row by 2-23 to 1-17.
Monaghan were the opponents in the All Ireland quarter final and Dublin breezed past the challenge without getting out of second gear.
Their structured defence kept the men from the Farney County quiet and their searing pace and clever passing cut the Monaghan blanket defence to shreds.
Dean Rock finished top scorer with 1-07, his goal came in the 40th minute of the game as he palmed to the net from an Paddy Andrews pass. Dublin led by 0-11 to 0-03 at the interval and cruised to a 1-19 to 0-12 win at the finish.
Tyrone were the next challenge in the All Ireland semi final and came to Croke Park with many believing they could cause an upset. But Dublin completely dismantled them in a one sided contest.
Tyrone set-up with their usual packed defence and counter-attacking style, Jim Gavin wasn’t about to play into Tyrone’s hands and stretched his team wide across the pitch with players on the wing standing just inside the sidelines, it was a set-up to force Tyrone to engage away from the clogged central channel and free up space around the scoring zone.
If they didn’t engage Dublin simply held onto the ball and probed for the openings that would inevitably appear.
The Ulster mens plight and set-up though wasn’t helped when three minutes into the game Con O’Callaghan pounced for the games opening goal.
Dublin pressurised the Ulster champions as they tried to play out from the back and overturned the ball. O’Callaghan took the ball chinked to the right and back to the left leaving a Tyrone defender on the ground and then buried the ball past Niall Morgan.
By half-time Dublin led by 1-09 to 0-05 and Tyrone needed a rethink on their tactics.
Surprisingly they stuck rigidly to the defensive structure after the break despite the fact they were trailing and continued with 14 sometimes 15 players in their own half.
By the finish Dublin won by 12 with Eoghan O’Gara grabbing a goal late on but the gap could have been even more, McManamon had a goal effort crash back off the crossbar and McCaffrey seen his shot at goal go narrowly wide.
The biggest cheer of the day in Dublin’s 2-17 to 0-11 win was reserved for the introduction with 12 minutes left on the clock of Diarmuid Connolly after his twelve week suspension.
Next up for Jim Gavins men was the All Ireland Final and once again it was Mayo standing in their way.
Compelling is the only word to describe the final as these two titans of the game once again went toe to toe.
The game started at a frantic pace and with just 1 minute and 25 seconds gone in the game Dublin struck the first goal of the final.
Cian O’Sullivan played a clever ball into Con O’Callaghan, he turned and took off towards goal, he left three Mayo defenders for dead and deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot past the keeper and into the net.
Dublin though suffered a blow eight minutes in when Jack McCaffrey was forced out of the game with an injury, the reshuffle seemed to upset the flow of the team and Mayo capitalised and by half time they led by one with the score 0-09 to 1-05.
It should have been a bigger lead particularly as Mayo were winning the kick-out battle, but their old failing of not turning possession into scores and kicking bad wides under pressure came back to haunt them as they hit five wides before the break and also dropped two attempts short into Cluxton hands.
Jim Gavin made two telling changes for the second half bringing in Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon with O’Gara and Andrews making way.
Dublin showed far more composure after the break and quickly established a two point lead.
Paul Mannion had a goal chance for the Dubs but David Clarke in the Mayo got a boot to the ball to keep it out.
At the other end Cluxton made a smart save from Jason Doherty as the relentless pace continued.
Just past the three quarter-hour mark both sides were reduced to 14 players, Dublin’s John Small received a second yellow card for planting Colm Boyle with a shoulder into the chest, Donal Vaughan who stupidly reacted to that challenge by striking Small with an elbow was shown a straight red card.
At this stage the tension around the ground was overwhelming for spectators and players alike.
Mayo hit the front when Andy Moran released the rampaging Lee Keegan who finished the ball to the net.
But Dublin dominated the final ten minutes and with the teams level in the sixth minute of injury time Connolly who had already chipped in with a point won a free about forty metres out.
Dean Rock placed the ball and took a look at the posts, if he scored Dublin would lead by one with just two minutes of the eight added left and would more than likely be the winning of the final.
He took a couple of steps back and to the left, strode up to the ball and despite Lee Keegan throwing his GPS unit in his direction, Rock kept his usual unwavering focus and sent the ball sailing between the posts to put Dublin one up.
Mayo desperately needed to work the ball up the other end of the pitch but Dublin won the restart and held on to possession to claim the win by 1-17 to 1-16 and the All Ireland title for the third year in a row, the first Dublin side to complete the feat since 1921-23.
In Part 3 of the Decade of the Dubs we like on back of the 2018 and 2019 seasons as Dublin ended the decade cemented the place as the greatest team in GAA history as they claimed the five in-a-row.