Former hero Sean Doherty expecting Dublin to deliver

Man who led Dublin to success in 1974 expects Jim Gavin’s crew to defeat Donegal and then emulate his side’s achievements by winning a third All-Ireland in four years

In the 40 years since Sean Doherty captained Dublin to the All-Ireland title the style and execution of Gaelic football has changed beyond recognition. Or has it?

Doherty doesn’t necessarily think so. One of the great full backs of his era, Doherty watches the current Dublin team with a mixture of respect and envy.

He expects them to beat Donegal in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final, yet also feels the Dublin team of 1974 were every bit as good, if they were somehow able to prove it.

“I think Dublin winning that All-Ireland in 1974 did change the game,” says Doherty, speaking at his induction into the All-Ireland Kick Fada Hall of Fame. “That was the first time that a county team had used two full forwards, to create a runner, a free man around the park. We opened up space and used to lash the ball down to whoever was in that area.


"That's what Kevin Heffernan applied, back in '74, and you had to be extra fit to play that kind of game. That was developed by experts over the years, and it's been developing ever since."

Dublin's attacking tactics under Jim Gavin certainly impress Doherty.

“They are a bit fitter now, and they are far better behaved. We still indulged, seriously, back in those days. The lads today, they absolutely toe the line, no pints and no drink. And their training schedules are totally different. Their rest periods, recovery times and all that, makes a big difference to how they play the game.

“But in our day, if we were given the opportunity that the present guys have, we would put them to the pin of their collar. . . If that ’74 team, if they had the same facilities as today and we behaved ourselves, I’d say we we’re as good as the present guys.”

Physical reason

This Dublin team also need to win a third All-Ireland title to emulate the 1970s side and, barring complacency, he sees no physical reason why they won’t.

“I do think they’ll do it this year. They’re in with a great chance, unless they think Donegal are going to be handy one. We discovered that in ’74. We were back in ’75, thought it was going to be a handy one, we’ll get through this young Kerry team, motor on. But to our astonishment, they turned us over and that was it. It does show you how the mind can be affected by winning . . .”

"Donegal are a better team than they were in 2012 . . . they've added a fair amount of armoury to their play, they are coming forward with tactics that are able to manufacture scores. It may force Donegal to keep Michael Murphy up front, up around that area. If Murphy comes down they are pretty bereft of scoring power."

Doherty has high praise for current Dublin full back Rory O’Carroll. “He’s probably the most intelligent full back there is in the game today. He’s fast, able to read the game extremely well, and his distribution is very good.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics