The Rhyme of Sporting History

Yesterday’s Dublin win was historic in that it enabled them to become only the fourth team and third county in history to win four in a row All Ireland Football Championship titles.

It may not have had the thrills, spills and excitement of last year’s final but not every day can be Christmas and reports of the demise of the sport have been greatly exaggerated.

Sean Moran writing in Saturday’s Irish Times had looked back on the coverage ahead of Kerry winning their last four in a row back in 1981. He found commentary on the game being in a state of despair and in need of change to the rules. Sounds familiar. But he also found that the All Ireland Final of that year did not sell out.

Kerry had beaten Dublin twice, Roscommon and then Offaly on their way to the history books. This Dublin team have beaten Mayo twice, Kerry and now Tyrone. In every case the crowd was over 82,000 and could have been twice that, a full 33 percent bigger than back in the 80’s.

History has a rhyme that is literally of another era but which has a permanent echo no matter changing fashions or cries of it being better in the old days.

Football has played second fiddle to hurling this year, at least outside of Dublin, but it remains at a level of popularity than any other sport or activity anywhere in the world would give their eye teeth for.

In 1982 Offaly bounced back to stop history in its tracks with a win over the invincible Kerry. Tyrone will take that fact of history and nurture it over the winter.

Every other county in the country will make their plans not based on coming second but on being that Offaly team of its generation. The beauty of sport is that it is never certain, despite how that may look.

There is always a chance and total dominance is always cyclical.

Dublin created 25 scoring chances from play yesterday, one more than Tyrone. But they only hit six wides to their opponents 16.

They won 29 of their 31 kickouts, Tyrone won 18 of 24. Four that they lost resulted in scores in the ten-minute burst that effectively won Dublin the title, at a time when they trailed after Tyrone’s strong start.

These are the small twists in a game, these moments which mark the difference between wins and losses. They are smaller than you imagine in a six-point winning margin.

They are the differences that management and players of the team that will eventually end Dublin’s dominance are noting and planning to exploit.

The 1982 Final and Seamus Darby’s late goal is one of the most talked about and remembered finals of all time.

It came because a team who had previously been beaten by seven points had the belief to come back and the tenacity to keep going.

The beauty of sport, the rhyme of history.

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