With their first squad out in Jamaica, Dublin's 'third-string' outfit triumphed in the O'Byrne Cup this month. Firing off another round into the already bloodied corpse that is Leinster football.
Some have made a point of objecting to the term 'third string', notably Dublin's interim manager Paul Clarke and Louth manager Colin Kelly. Given that none of the players that featured yesterday were part of the Dublin's 35-strong panel in 2016, it's hard to see how they can quibble. Here's more info on the Dublin team that played and beat Kildare last week.
Dublin have won 11 of the last 12 Leinster titles and, in the Jim Gavin era, they have yet to be even threatened with defeat. The debate surrounding this phenomenon is split into two camps.
- The end of history theorists who believe that Dublin's dominance will extend into perpetuity and who sincerely think we may never see another Leinster champion again.
- And those brash culchie optimists who believe that this is simply an unusually talented Dublin crop who won't be around forever and that rural Leinster will surely rise again.
January 2017 was not a good month for the latter argument. The spectacle of a Dublin team drawn from players who are ranked from roughly 36 to 62 in the pecking order in the capital beating the likes of Kildare and Louth to win the O'Byrne Cup would appear to tilt the debate in favour of the rural pessimists.
And yet the ebullient Colin Kelly, who watched his Louth side go down by nine points against this Dublin team, chose yesterday to make that argument.
He's confident that the province will become competitive again, once the more gifted of the Dublin players step away. He told Paul Keane in the Examiner;
It’s just at this minute in time the province is probably not at its strongest. It will come again, but for me it’s media driven. The media guys are getting the airtime on where Dublin are at the minute. Dublin are a serious operation, they are a serious outfit.
Will they produce another Diarmuid Connolly? I don’t know. Will they produce another Bernard Brogan? I don’t know. Is Stephen Cluxton replaceable? All these questions, and when these guys step away we’ll see if it will level out. That’s the reality, it will come around again.
Last year, could Mayo have won the All-Ireland and would we be having this conversation then?
By contrast, in the Sunday Independent yesterday, Colm O'Rourke made roughly the opposite argument. He more or less resurrected his call to split Dublin as a county, although this time he came at it from another angle. He pointed to the vast numbers of quality players in the capital who are easily good enough for nearly every other county. And yet because the competition is so intense and the pool is so deep in Dublin, these players will never have a chance of playing championship football in Croke Park.
When I have written about this in the past there was a certain hysterical reaction about breaking Dublin up. When it is considered in any rational way there must surely be a lot of people in Dublin, and especially a lot of young Dublin players, who would be happy to see two or three Dublin teams so they could get a chance.
Unlike Colin Kelly, he suggests that demographic trends would logically point to Leinster becoming yet more uncompetitive.
In other words, this not cyclical. It is permanent.
Does anyone seriously consider the present model of counties can survive? Fifty years ago there was not such population imbalances. These are going to get worse and render more and more counties uncompetitive. Kerry and a very small number of other counties will survive and continue to win. The rest won't count while hundreds of very good players in Dublin never get the chance to test themselves in county football.