Posted by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Here’s a question though. If James Horan’s men finally bridge the 62-year gap since Seán Flanagan brought the Sam Maguire Cup to the county, what are the chances of them emulating that Mayo side by doing it again, 12 months later?
You would have to say very slim indeed. That is not a slight on this very good team and squad that won’t be thinking of such things. They have only one game on their minds right now.
It’s just that the two-in-a-row has become the new three-in-a-row in football. Hen’s teeth are more proliferous.
Since Cork laid a plethora of ghosts to rest by slaying their Meath persecutors in 1990 to bag their second consecutive title, only one county has managed a repeat trick. It would have to be Kerry, of course.
They actually played in a remarkable six consecutive All-Irelands from 2004 to 2009. In all, the Kingdom played in eight out of that decade’s deciders, winning five but being denied by Tyrone in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
The Red Hands invariably struggled the year after their successes – Ulster was and remains more of a minefield than what Kerry have had to face in Munster. Still, it was a phenomenal effort for Kerry to have so many shots at the big one. And while Kerry supporters' expectations are such, they might view only one two-in-a-row (2006-07) as a poor return, the fact it was the first in 17 years and has not been repeated is significant.
There are many reasons for this. The rigours of preparation have spiralled over the years and clearly take their toll, mentally and physically. And to have a hunger sated is to lose a major part of the psychological armoury required to do it all over again.
This is particularly the case for some of the newcomers that gatecrashed the scene in the past two decades. Some haven’t returned ever. Others did, but only a few years later and haven’t been a factor in a while.
Think about it. Cork had to wait 20 years to add to their All-Ireland haul. The early ‘90s brought about the Ulster revolution. Down started and ended the flurry in ’91 and ’94. Donegal never looked like repeating ’92 until last year. A combination of injuries and dilution of desire left them well off the mark this time around. Derry haven’t even gotten close to replicating their 1993 success.
Dublin ended a long wait in 1995 and then endured another lengthy spell on the sidelines until two years ago. Meath did the business in ’96, returned three years later and haven’t been in a final since. Kerry ended their 11-year famine in ’97.
Powered by an infectiously-enthusiastic group of youngsters, Galway came from nowhere in ’98 but despite their advantageous age profile, it took them three years to climb the Hogan Stand steps once more and they too haven’t appeared in the September showcase since.
Kerry began their phenomenal All-Ireland run of appearances in the noughties by beating the Tribesmen in 2000 and apart from Armagh’s lone success in 2002, it was Kerry and Tyrone thereafter. Despite their dominance of the titles though, they couldn’t come back and do it the following year. Apart from once.
Eircom GAA Ambassador, Colm Cooper was an integral member of the 2006-07 outfit and recalls there being a genuine motivation to pin down those back-to-back victories. The players were more than aware that it had become a special landmark and the talent was there to do it.
“The main reason for me that we managed it is the quality of players we had” says Cooper.
“We had some exceptional players, proven winners all over the field. We were a very tight-knit bunch as well. During that period, there’d be skin and hair flying in the trial games. We really went for it.
“We had a bit of a bee in our bonnet about the two-in-a-row because we knew we had such an exceptional side at that time, we were one of the teams that could possibly do it. It was something that the guys felt they could achieve and really wanted to achieve.
“What we’ve seen from the other All-Ireland champions since, and ourselves as well, is that it’s really difficult to achieve. If you look at Donegal last year and how hungry they were; Mayo look like a similar animal this year as they haven’t tasted it in a long time. They really want it.
“Thankfully, we were able to keep that hunger going in ’06 and ’07.
“So there were two reasons why we did it. One, the quality of players we had and two, that group of players wanted to do something special and be the back-to-back champions.
“It’s going to take some team now to go back-to-back. If you’re off by two or three per cent, Croke Park is an amazing place and it’ll find you out.”
All eyes will be on Mayo, Dublin or Kerry in 2014.
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