Posted by Shane Stapleton

Donegal have it all to do to hold onto the All-Ireland title — as recent history shows

Tyrone Armagh2003final

The Saw Doctors saw ‘To Win Just Once’ but, for Donegal, the challenge is to win it all again.

Jim McGuinness’ side bridged a gap back to 1992 when they lifted the Sam Maguire Cup last September but only once has a team managed to retain the trophy since 1990 — Kerry back in 2007.

The Kingdom have been serial All-Ireland winners down through the years so no other side is better prepared with parking one year’s achievements before driving on to the next. Donegal, as they did 20 years ago, have to deal with the euphoria — not to mention their recent relegation from the top flight of the league — to surpass what the Saw Doctors sought out: to win more than once.

Before taking our Weekly Quiz, first look at a few recent cases of teams striving to retain Sam.

ARMAGH — 2003

The Orchard County bucked the trend of All-Ireland champions at the time by becoming the first team to actually win Sam Maguire and be in the next September final to defend since Cork successfully did so in 1990. 

So often the issue for a first-time winner is dealing with that to come back for more but great leaders such as Kieran McGeeney and Oisin McConville drove Joe Kernan’s team back for more.

The Orchard County had to go the back route though as Monghan knocked them out at the first Ulster hurdle before their qualified their way back to the All-Ireland final to meet new Ulster champions Tyrone.

I do think that Armagh should have got more than the one All-Ireland and most Armagh people would think so, too. They believe they were unlucky not to beat us in 2003 but that’s all a matter of opinion. That final was very intense. Armagh were champions the year before and, in many ways, Tyrone were enthused by that because in the couple of years previous they would have felt they were as good as them. So, the way Joe Kernan’s side went on to get that breakthrough win in 2002, it gave Tyrone renewed ambition.

Wrote Mickey Harte in his 2012 article.

TYRONE — 2004

Eircom ambassador Harte led the Red Hands to a first ever All-Ireland title in their third final back in 2003, after a pulsating 0-12 to 0-9 win over maiden champions Armagh at Croke Park. But, as Harte explained in his column last year, extenuating circumstances made Tyrone’s task a bridge too far:

I think it takes an exceptional side to be able to win the All-Ireland, enjoy the success, and then come back and win it again the following year. For Tyrone, circumstances were different. After the breakthrough in 2003 we lost Cormac McAnallen and when you consider the tragedy that was in the lives of young players and the impact it had on all of us, I consider 2004 not to count. We were running on empty and were drained of our energy in many other ways and I think it was a real success for Tyrone that year to reach the quarter-finals. 

The Red Hands bowed out to Donegal in the Ulster semi-finals before running out of steam against Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

KERRY — 2007

Won the All-Ireland through the back door in 2006 when they hammered Mayo in the final. A year later, they regained the Munster title by beating Cork in the provincial final and, unlike Armagh in 2002, they reached September again without entering through the back door.

Kerry’s 35th All-Ireland title never looked in doubt and they were 12 points clear with more than 20 minutes left on the clock as the hoodoo over the Rebels at Croke Park strengthened its reputation.

A great feat for a special team that reached six finals in a row — winning four — from 2004 to 2009.

DUBLIN — 2012

Dublin won the All-Ireland amid scenes of joy at Croke Park in 2011, with a deafening noise and blue smoke billowing across the Hill. Dublin had a mediocre league campaign in 2012 but they looked to be back to their old selves when trouncing Louth in their Leinster opener.

However, Wexford pushed the 14-man Dubs in the semi-final and, but for 11 second-half wides and failing to score in the final 20 minutes, they would have dethroned the champs. Dublin moved on but the performances showed little spark as they had to hold on against Meath to win Leinster before stuttering past Laois in the All-Ireland quarters.

But it all came apart against Mayo as Alan Brogan was unable to start and, after coming on, he again had to be withdraw. Still, the Dubs showed the spark that had been missing in their three previous games to stage a thrilling, if ultimately unsuccessful, comeback.

I wouldn’t be writing this Dublin team off just yet. We know how difficult it is to retain All-Ireland titles but I expect them to bounce back and regain their confidence. It’s just a pity the changes weren’t made earlier because the team that finished the game looked far more balanced than the one that took to the field at the start. The ten minutes after half-time was the most crucial part of the game. Dublin had both Brogans in the full-forward line with one injured and the other off form.

wrote Ciaran Whelan in his 2012 article.

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