Two major targets are in Dublin’s sights this season: completing a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles for the county for the first time since the 1920s, and securing the Leinster Championship for a record-breaking seventh year in a row.
When the Dubs were last on the verge of a seventh successive provincial crown in 1980, their march was halted by an Offaly side that would go on to claim the Sam Maguire Cup in 1982.
Carlow aren’t expected to pull off what would be one of the greatest giant-killing acts in the history of the GAA this Saturday evening. But they are embracing the challenge and looking forward to memorable occasion at O’Moore Park.
Most Gaelic football analysts expected Dublin to be heading to Wexford this weekend. Under new boss, ‘Banty’ McEnaney and recently promoted from Division 4, they were favourites to defeat the hosts at Netwatch Cullen Park. But Carlow tore up the script in a thrilling game, coming through by 2-17 to 2-13. And the celebrations following the final whistle epitomised all that is best about the GAA summer.
Players and supporters rejoiced on the pitch as the county won a Leinster SFC game for the first time since 2011. Later that night, team manager Turlough O’Brien enjoyed a guest slot on The Sunday Game, and quipped that Dublin would win the All-Ireland “through the back door”.
Whatever about the likely margin of victory for Dublin on Saturday evening, the Carlow players showed huge spirit and resolve last Sunday week which should stand to them. Brendan Murphy covered every blade of grass and capped off a superb display with an injury-time goal – exactly the type of performance which earned him selection on the Irish International Rules squad in the past. His midfield colleague Sean Murphy is no slouch either and almost scored a goal-of-the-season contender after a blistering run through the Wexford defence, only for his shot to rebound off the crossbar. Wing back Danny Murphy did net an excellent goal early in the second half and corner forward Paul Broderick was another man-of-the-match contender, with a personal tally of ten points.
They had heroes all over the field, but Dublin are a different proposition altogether. Their long unbeaten run in the league and championship came to an end in the Allianz Division 1 final in April, and with fringe players always looking for an opportunity to impress, they will be focussed on hitting the ground running this weekend.
Dublin and Carlow last met in the Leinster championship in 1988, when Dublin won a quarter-final clash by 1-14 to 0-8 in front of a crowd of 8,000 in Dr. Cullen Park. The winners will meet Offaly or Westmeath on Sunday, 25th June.