Much more to come from Dublin says O'Rourke
By Michael Devlin
Meath great Colm O’Rourke believes there is much more to come from this Dublin team, and he envisages a continuation of their domination of the All-Ireland Football Championship and a sixth successive Sam Maguire next season.
“I think it’s not going to stop,” said O’Rourke, who was in attendance in Croke Park yesterday where he was inducted into the GAA Museum Hall of Fame. “I think they’ll do six in-a-row next year because they are supremely motivated. People say ‘sure they’ll get fed up of winning’ but there’s no sign of that.
“I would know quite a few of them very well and I’m amazed by the motivation. If there was another game next Sunday they’d just love to play, I think they have that love of the game.
“People say ‘Why do you play football?’ You play for enjoyment and Dublin are not going to stop playing just because they’re winning, in fact that may increase their motivation to win because they enjoy it so much.
“They are great role models, they are modest and they have a degree of humility about them which comes from Jim Gavin and Stephen Cluxton. They are a sort of model team who could keep on going indefinitely.”
There is much speculation that an elder cohort of Dublin players may consider their county career futures between now and the start of next season, and while those players have been integral to the past decade’s run of success, O’Rourke believes the core group of the current team are in their prime, and more than capable of going for more.
“The best part of the team is nearly the youngest part now when you look at Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Jack McCaffrey, Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny – like those fellas are not going anywhere.
“The six really best players at this stage are their main driving force and are at their peak years – 24, 25, 26. And they love playing. So, I think it’s curtain for a lot of teams for a while yet because I don’t see them dis-improving.”
Of the chasing pack, O’Rourke reckons Kerry have the best chance of challenging Dublin and calling a halt to their domination. Despite the Kingdom being minutes away from All-Ireland victory in the first game, he still believes Peter Keane’s young side “are still a good bit behind” the Dubs.
“Obviously they drew the drawn match, but I always said that if Dublin had 15 men in the drawn match for the whole game, I think they would have won the match. They were in control when [Jonny] Cooper was sent off.
“The race for second place is the race to be a bit behind Dublin at the moment. Kerry are the team who would have the best chance of toppling them. They are a young team but there was significant improvement.
“I saw them against Mayo in Tralee in the league – I was down there for that game and I thought they were quite poor. Saw them in the league final against Mayo, thought they were poor enough. Saw them in the Munster final, thought they were poor enough. Then, the second half of the Tyrone game, that was the first time you’d say, ‘Yeah, this Kerry team have something’.
“They had a bit of bottle that day when they looked as if they were being beating. That was the first time for me they advertised themselves as a coming force.The drawn All-Ireland game, when they were five points behind, that said something about the character of the team.
“They can have all the quality minors that they like but if they don’t have that sort of quality and resilience they’d be nothing. But they showed they have that. They are the team. But they still need three, four, five players.
“I thought Donegal this year were going to be the next best thing because they are a big, athletic team in the Dublin mould, even if it’s Dublin-lite kind of thing, but I thought they had quality.
“If [Eoghan] Ban Gallagher didn’t get injured, he would have been a big help to them. Ciaran Gillespie has had injury problems, he is a good player too. If the two of them are back then Donegal are a team, they’re young, have a lot of quality about them. Donegal are a team I like a lot.”