Capital returns: The story of Dublin’s decade in nine league games
League exploits show how a team has achieved its success
Michael Darragh MacAuley on his debut at centre forward for Dublin in their 1-12 to 1-10 victory against Kerry at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney; February 7th, 2010. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dublin’s extraordinary decade will be obvious to posterity from the eight All-Ireland titles in 10 years but the county’s league record will provide significant corroboration.
Five titles and two finals are the headline details but beyond that is a stunning decade-long achievement of losing on average less than one and a half matches per league season over the 11 years 2010 to date.
Throughout that period Dublin have had three managers and the routine turnover of players and from the first league match of 2010, only Stephen Cluxton started last December’s All-Ireland final.
Here in nine league matches is the story of Dublin’s decade.
1. Kerry 1-10 Dublin 1-12
Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney; February 7th, 2010
This league fixture came within six months of Kerry burying Dublin in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final - for which Dublin were actually favourites. Pat Gilroy was rebuilding the team and just five of the previous August’s starting 15 lined out. Michael Darragh MacAuley made his debut at centre forward and more importantly, Dublin took a scalp in Kerry for the first time in 28 years.
2. Tyrone 0-11 Dublin 2-14
Healy Park, Omagh; April 11th, 2010
On the last day of the divisional season, Dublin needed to win to have a chance of reaching the final. Tyrone needed to win to avoid relegation – an unprecedented fate in Mickey Harte’s management up to that point. The Brogans, Alan and Bernard combined for 1-9, as Dublin won easily. They lost out to Cork on the head-to-head but it had been their best league in more than a decade.
3. Cork 0-21, Dublin 2-14
Croke Park; April 24th, 2011
This league final echoed the All-Ireland semi-final of the previous year in its narrow win for Cork but Dublin had plenty of alibis. Their attack was underpowered by suspensions for Alan Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara and then in the space of less than 10 minutes, going into the final quarter they lost Bryan Cullen, Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly. None of the subs scored but there was a sense that at full strength, Dublin were good enough.
4. Dublin 0-18, Tyrone 0-17
Croke Park; April 28th, 2013
The first silverware of Jim Gavin’s management came against a Tyrone side that the previous month had inflicted what would be the only defeat of 2013. Dean Rock came off the bench to kick the winning points and give Dublin their first win in the competition for 20 years.
5. Dublin 2-20 Cork 2-13
Croke Park; April 13th, 2014
In the league semi-final, Dublin turned around a 10-point deficit early in the second half to win by seven. It was a stunning transformation. Dublin appeared invincible, which some months later in the All-Ireland semi-final proved a misleading look.
6. Dublin 0-8, Derry 0-4
Croke Park; March 28th, 2015
A match in the spring of 2015, which marked Brian Fenton’s last appearance as a replacement before becoming first choice came marked the change that helped to recreate Dublin. The sense of unease and despair triggered by the match made it appear like football’s Manhattan Project. Dublin scored the four winning points in the last 10 minutes.
Jim Gavin was deconstructing the blanket defence, fibre by fibre. Gone were the panicky running blindly at a packed defence and taking pot shots from distance, which had characterised the breakdown of the previous summer.
Now, if a team wanted to funnel back, Dublin would keep possession and probe patiently. It would be up to them if they wanted the ball.
7. Kerry 0-13 Dublin 0-13
Austin Stack Park, Tralee; March 18th, 2017
Paul Mannion kicked an equaliser deep in injury-time to equal a record set by Kerry in the 1930s. It meant that Dublin had also gone 34 league and championship matches without being beaten. They created their own record in the two fixtures that followed. Kerry had the limited satisfaction of stopping it getting any worse when they beat Dublin in that year’s league final, leaving the record at 36.
8. Dublin 1-11 Tyrone 1-14
Croke Park, March 16th, 2019
In retrospect, it might have been the first sign that Jim Gavin was getting ready to leave the five-in-a-row as his lasting monument. This result meant that Dublin for the first time on his watch could not reach the final. Was it slippage or single-mindedness? We found out the following September.
9. Dublin 1-15 Monaghan 1-15
Croke Park, February 8th, 2020
If evidence was needed that Dublin under new manager Dessie Farrell would not be getting soft it came in this extraordinary match just weeks before the world changed forever. Under-strength and outplayed, Dublin trailed by six going into injury-time. Practised at such things Kevin McManamon got a goal to cut the deficit. Seán Bugler added two points and with Rory Beggan drifting two placed balls slightly wide, it was left to David Byrne in the 79th minute to come up from full back and level the match.