Tom Carr points to Dublin’s ‘superiority complex’
Champions chase ninth Leinster title in 10 years as Meath have won just one of last eight clashes
Dublin’s Paul Flynn during the team parade before the 2012 Leinster senior football final against Meath at Croke Park, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho
The drum roll of forbidding statistics accompanying Sunday’s Leinster final is daunting from the point of view of Dublin’s opponents, Meath. The champions are on the trail of a ninth provincial title in 10 seasons whereas Meath have won just one of the last eight meetings between the traditional rivals.
Tom Carr remembers an older time when there was genuine competition in the province, if only between Dublin and Meath, at one stage in football history. The former Dublin player and manager identifies what he sees as the main difference on the relationship between the counties.
“What it’s given Dublin compared to the headier days when they and Meath were swapping Leinster titles on an annual basis, is a huge confidence, a superiority complex. The players go in thinking that there’s no good reason why they can’t beat Meath.
“Jim Gavin would know the reason why because he would have been beaten by Meath in his day and he will be emphasising to the players that they’re not infallible and particularly not against Meath. But that might be difficult.”
Dublin manager Gavin will point to the improvement in Meath in the counties’ contests over the past two years and will reference what happened four years ago when teething problems with Dublin’s new defensive system came into disastrous alignment with a sharp Meath attacking performance but in the here and now only one outcome is expected.
“It’s the old thing of tradition,” says Carr. “Dublin are going for an ninth Leinster in 10 years so the only tradition that Dublin team has is one of being quite superior to Meath and that can be hard to break down. Before that Meath are going to have beat Dublin two or three times in a row and in recent years they haven’t been a comparable threat to what they were in our time, the 1980s and ’90s.”
Worthy prizeDublin players do however defend the importance of Leinster finals both as contests and prizes worth winning as well as simply championship matches that determine places on the team. “No, it is important,” according to Dublin All Star Paul Flynn. “Every player when they look back on their career they’re going to be able to say, ‘we’ve done this, we’ve won that’ and that’s probably the most important thing.
“I don’t really think a lot about what I’ve won, I just continue to keep playing and then when I finish football I will retrospectively look back and say, ‘look, it’s great to have won x, y and z’. But when you’re playing I just take every year as it comes, every game as it comes, every training session as it comes because you have to live in that kind of mindset or else someone else will come in and take your jersey.”
Supremacy in Leinster however came in the early years with a disconnect between the province and standards in the All-Ireland series.
Many, including Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney, ascribed part of the difficulties encountered by Dublin outside of the province to the decline of significant rivalries within.
Carr wouldn’t go that far but acknowledges that the situation didn’t help.
“Do I put Dublin’s failure to win more All-Irelands totally down to the fact that there wasn’t a heavy rivalry in Leinster football? I’m not sure that I do but the lack of it means that they often weren’t as prepared when they come through the provincial final and it may explain why there have been so many disappointments in All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals over the years.”
ConcernsFormer Dublin captain and All-Ireland winner Dessie Farrell, who managed the county under-21s to All-Ireland success this year wonders whether the concerns weren’t exaggerated at the time.
“There was a question whether we’d ever get over that (the gap between provincial and All-Ireland standards). Now with two All-Irelands in three years it looks as if the problem isn’t as bad – whether it’s down to a lack of serious competition or Dublin moving on to another level is the question.”
He believes that fears about a developing domination of football by the county are alarmist.
“I don’t think that will happen. We’re lucky to have a really good squad together but players get older and different dynamics develop in a squad and suddenly teams aren’t as successful. We’ve seen it at the World Cup with Spain and Brazil. I wouldn’t take anything for granted. This is a golden age. Just enjoy it.”