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Stats against Dublin as Ulster sides push on

By John Campbell

Those Ulster sides with realistic ambitions of winning the All-Ireland title this year have been handed an incentive to go all the way by the statisticians.

Only once in 21 years has any side landed back-to-back Sam Maguire Cups and that was Cork in 1989-1990.

This is seen as putting more pressure on Dublin to replicate their feat of last September when the 2012 championship swings into action.

Donegal are viewed as the strongest challengers from Ulster for the ‘big one’ given the fact that they reached the 2011 semi-finals only to fall victims to their own strategy against the Dubs.

But even though Tyrone are about to embark on a transitional year, there is considerable speculation that Mickey Harte’s side could be in the mix for the major honour while Down and Derry are not being totally ruled out of the equation.

Recent history proves that reaching and winning the All-Ireland final final is really the prerogative of only a handful of sides.

Kerry have contested eight of the last ten All-Ireland finals, Cork three of the last five and Tyrone have had a three-in-six sequence, making them easily Ulster’s most consistent side of the last decade.

Manager Harte though is understandably adopting a cautious approach as he enters 2012 without players of the calibre of Brian Dooher, Enda McGinley, Philip Jordan, Brian McGuigan, Ciaran Gourley and perhaps even Ryan McMenamin.

In contrast, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness will have the bulk of his 2011 squad at his disposal again with the obvious — and controversial — exception of Kevin Cassidy. There is a suggestion too that veteran Michael Hegarty could be another non-starter but this is unconfirmed.

Should McGuinness decide to adopt a more adventurous policy, then Donegal, providing they show the same levels of fitness and resolve, could become an even more potent force.

While tradition is on Kerry’s side, form if not recent history bolsters Dublin’s chances of reigning supreme again.

And that could bode ill for Ulster sides. Dubs’ boss Pat Gilroy, who kept the county’s legion of fans on tenterhooks before he finally confirmed that he would remain at the helm, has indicated that his side might actually find life easier in 2012.

“We now know that we can do it so this helps in that it removes the doubt. It is a matter of trying to repeat it and that makes it easier in one sense,” says Gilroy, “I think in the semi-final and final last year we made more mistakes than we should have yet we won both games. If we can improve then we have to be in with a chance again.”

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