Yesterday marked another milestone in the Dublin-Kildare relationship as a close to full-strength Kildare team failed to beat a 3rd string Dublin side in Newbridge.
Admittedly, it was only in the O'Byrne Cup. Still, one would anticipate that the result will not feature heavily in the promotional literature should these sides meet in the Leinster championship this year.
The Dublin-Kildare rivalry, while rarely one of equals, was once guaranteed to deliver a testing afternoon for the Dubs. Back during the 1960s (some years before intrepid explorers re-introduced the sport to the citizens of the capital) the Dubs were routinely defeated in the fixture. In the colour television era, Kildare won two famous victories over the Dubs around the turn of the millennium.
As recently as the 2011 Leinster semi-final, they got within a point of the Dubs, only losing to a controversial late free awarded to Bernard Brogan.
But ever since the Leinster Football Championship ceased to be a competitive sporting event and instead transformed itself into an annual culchie-trampling festival, these contests have become a thing of the past. Most supporters regard this as a regrettable development.
In Newbridge, manager Cian O'Neill used 13 players who had featured in Kildare's last championship game against Mayo in July.
Admittedly, only seven players started both games - Mark Donnellan, Niall Kelly, Niall Flynn, Kevin Feely (formerly of Bohemians), Fergal Conway, David Hyland, and Eoin Doyle. But the likes of Ollie Lyons, Tommy Moolick, Eamon Callaghan and Kevin Cribbin were all introduced well before the final whistle.
The Dublin A-listers, meanwhile, have been in Jamaica for the past month, along with their manager. (They may be back now). In the absence of Jim Gavin, U21 manager Paul Clarke manned the sideline yesterday, as he has all January. Less than a fortnight ago, Clarke's experimental Dublin side were beaten by a Jack McCaffrey inspired UCD in Parnell Park.
Clarke retained eight of those who started the UCD game in his starting 15 yesterday. Ross Hazely was introduced as a sub against UCD and started yesterday's game while Gavin Ivory was introduced in the 2nd half in both games, taking the total number of players involved in both the UCD and Kildare matches up to ten.
They came up short against UCD but it transpired that the team selected yesterday had the tools to beat Kildare in St. Conleth's Park. Victory was achieved in spite of a ropey enough opening. Kildare led 2-4 to 0-4 after Daniel Flynn lashed home a 2nd goal on the 21st minute. The Dubs rallied to leave it 2-4 to 0-8 at the break. Kildare still led 2-8 to 0-11 on the 54th minute, but the Dubs hit five unanswered points in the final points to win it.
Conor McHugh and Niall Scully, two stars on the 2014 All-Ireland winning U21 team combined to manufacture the lead score on the 70th minute.
A benign interpretation of Kildare's loss is that the Dublin young guns (and a couple of older lads) were eager to impress yesterday, while the Kildare 1st choicers were operating at a lower speed. A January speed. But Cian O'Neill still pronounced himself "disgusted" that Kildare had lost a game they should have won.
Here's the Dublin "3rd string" outfit that triumphed against Kildare yesterday.
1. Evan Comerford (Ballymun Kickhams)
*Namesake of Tipperary star.
2. Jack Smith (Skerries Harps)
3. Eoin O'Brien (Castleknock)
4. Ross McGowan (Kilmacud)
5. Robbie Gaughan (Ballinteer)
6. Ciaran Reddin (St. Maur's)
*Reddin has been a fixture in Dublin's early season games since 2013.
7. Conor Mullally (Cuala)
8. Jason Whelan (Ballymun)
9. Ross Hazely (St. Sylvester's)
10. Niall Scully (Templeogue Synge Street)
11. Shane Boland (Castleknock)
12. Niall Walsh (Oliver Plunketts)
13. Paul Hudson (Thomas Davis)
14. Conor McHugh (Na Fianna)
*The U21 Footballer of the Year in 2014.
15. Michael Deegan (Donoghmore-Ashbourne)
*Son of Mick. Grew up in Meath and still plays club football there.
So, acknowledging that O'Byrne Cup matches are barely above the level of a pre-season friendly, we can agree that yesterday doesn't bode well for Kildare.
Nor does it bode well for those naively optimistic souls who dream of one day seeing a competitive Leinster championship again.
What about results though?
Meath were always the one county that could be relied upon to stick it to the Dubs and fly the flag for rural Leinster. Their bizarre decline in the 21st century has been disastrous for the Leinster championship. Any signs of improvement under their new manager Andy McEntee.
Yesterday, Meath lost at home to Louth in Navan.