30 steps to greatness: Inside Dublin’s 23-month unbeaten run

September 16, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

IN FIVE WEEKS’ time, Dublin will be six games into their Allianz League campaign.

By 19 March, they’ll have clashes against Tyrone, Mayo and Kerry in this year’s competition under the belt – the three teams widely regarded as the biggest pretenders to Dublin’s All-Ireland crown.

Dublin forward Paul Mannion

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

If Jim Gavin’s men can avoid defeat against the trio of counties that, along with themselves, make up Gaelic football’s ‘Big Four,’ it will bring their unbeaten run across league and championship to 34 games.

Significantly, extending their unbeaten run into March would also take Dublin’s competitive undefeated record past the two-year mark.

A 0-15 to 1-10 loss on 1 March 2015 to Kerry in Killarney was the last time Dublin have been beaten.

Tempers flare between between the players during the final moments of the last competitive game Dublin lost

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Between Saturday 7 March 2015 and Sunday 5 Feb 2017, they’ve extracted a win or draw from ties against 16 counties.

Here’s how those results stack up:



  • 3 – Monaghan
  • 2 – Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Donegal
  • 1 – Cavan, Derry, Down, Roscommon


  • 1 – Tyrone



  • 2 – Westmeath, Kerry, Mayo
  • 1 – Longford, Kildare, Laois, Meath, Fermanagh, Donegal


  • 2 – Mayo

Mayo are the team who’ve ran Dublin closest in recent years, drawing last year’s All-Ireland final and the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final before losing both replays.

But Mickey Harte’s Tyrone, who travel to Croke Park to play the four in-a-row league champions on Saturday night, have the best record against the Dubs outside of Mayo.

Dublin rolls royce James McCarthy

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

James McCarthy spoke this week about how a change in Dublin’s attitude towards the league effectively set the wheels in motion for the current run of unprecedented success.

“We changed and we said that we were going to take the league really seriously,” he said.

“If we are going to start beating these teams in the summer, we are going to need to beat them in the league.

“Obviously Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone they are our big rivals as well and you want to keep on trying to beat them, or keep trying to get the upper hand on them.

“You don’t want to give them that little bit…you don’t want them to flip it on you. If they beat us in the league, they’ll think, ‘why can’t we beat them in the summer’?”

Dublin manager Jim Gavin arrives into Kingspan Breffni Park last weekend

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

When Jim Gavin took charge in the winter 2012, he made winning the league a priority.

He recognised that an increasing number of Division 1 winners were gone on to enjoy further glory in September.

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Recent league and All-Ireland winning doubles

  • 2003 – Tyrone
  • 2004 – Kerry
  • 2006 – Kerry
  • 2009 –  Kerry
  • 2010 – Cork
  • 2013 – Dublin
  • 2015 –  Dublin
  • 2016 – Dublin

Dublin, who hadn’t won it since Gavin himself was a player in 1993, finished runners up in 2011 – the year they finally lifted the All-Ireland under Pat Gilroy.

Since Gavin took over, they’ve won the league every year and that has provided them with a springboard to attack the summer.

Dublin’s Brian Fenton celebrates with the Division 1 trophy after last year’s final

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Form can’t be turned on and off like a tap and the league provides Dublin with far better oppositon than they’ll face in the Leinster championship later in the summer.

Those four Division 1 titles have also fostered a real culture of competition within Gavin’s squad. Various players have seized on their opportunities in the spring and the 45-year-old rewarded them with starting roles in the championship.

Red Hand boss Harte will be relishing the challenge of bringing an end to Dublin’s run at HQ tonight.

Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte of Tyrone shake hands after the 2013 league final

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Harte has a credible record against Gavin’s Dublin, with one win, a draw and two defeats, although they’ve never faced one another in the championship.

Mickey Harte v Jim Gavin
  • 2013 league – Dublin 1-14 Tyrone 0-18, Croke Park
  • 2013 league final – Dublin 0-18 Tyrone 0-17, Croke Park
  • 2014 league – Tyrone 1-15 Dublin 3-10, Omagh
  • 2015 league – Dublin 1-9 Tyrone 0-12, Croke Park

It’s a much better record than the solitary win Kerry’s Eamonn Fitzmaurice has in the eight times he went head-to-head with Gavin.

Tyrone looked destined for another crack at Dublin until they were beaten by Mayo last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final. Their physicality, counter-attacking style and self-belief means they’re a side many feel are well-equipped to deal with this Dublin monster.

Tyrone wing-back Tiernan McCann takes flight

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Harte made some interesting comments about the All-Ireland champions at the tail end of last year.

“There’s no guarantee that if we had been there that we’d have won the (Mayo) game or if it would have been much different,” he said.

“Maybe Dublin could have beaten us by more – who knows? But I do believe we’d have been capable of competing with them. It would have been great to get the chance.”

They’ll get a chance to lay down a marker tonight.

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