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Clinching back to back All-Ireland senior football titles is the last hurdle for this Dublin team to cross

Retain Sam next Sunday and they are up there with the greats, says Ray Cosgrove.

The Dublin players celebrating their Leinster final win in July
The Dublin players celebrating their Leinster final win in July
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

THREE ALL-IRELAND titles in five years.

Four successive Division 1 league crowns.

And six consecutive final wins in Leinster.

The Dublin footballers have not lacked glory days in recent seasons but next Sunday offers them the chance to claim a significant feat.

Victory against Mayo would see the current squad clinch back to back titles for the first time.

Only one county (Kerry in 2006 and 2007) have achieved that in the last quarter of a century and you have to go back to 1977 for the last time a Dublin retained Sam.

“They’re the team of the decade you’d have to say after six years already,” reckons ex-Dublin player Ray Cosgrove.

“So if they put it back to back, they’d be up there with the greats. If you look at their record through the National League and under Jim, I think (you’d) put them up there with the greatest Dublin (team) ever.

“It hasn’t been done since 1977. This is the third attempt for this group of players of trying to do it. And it’s not an easy task.

“So, internally, there will be that pressure. They probably won’t say it externally, but there is the pressure of being up there with the team of ’77/’78 that put them back to back.

“Inside in that dressing-room there will be that pressure that this could be the third time they haven’t retained it in the last five years.”

Diarmuid Connolly and Lee Keegan Diarmuid Connolly and Lee Keegan battling for possession in last year's semi-final replay. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The common consensus is that Dublin have taken their game to another level and Mayo are not operating at the same high pitch. Cosgrove is wary of the strong tide of favouritism behind Dublin.

“I think most Dubs would be very confident of putting back to back. And if you talk to people outside of Dublin, neutrals, the vast bulk again think it’s going to be Dublin.

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“I was talking to someone and he said it would be the shock of the decade if Mayo beat them. I certainly wouldn’t be of that mind-set.

“If you look back last year to the drawn game, coming into injury-time Mayo could have beaten Dublin and probably should have if they had the belief to kick on.

“I think they’re a better, stronger team with more options this year. I know they haven’t put in a majestic performance yet. But they’re improving and getting better as the year has progressed and it’s probably no harm Galway beating them in Connacht. With the youth, the U21′s coming through, Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O’Connor having a great year, I’d be very, very wary.

“I think there’s one big performance in them. And, to be honest, fellas seemed to be more concerned about Kerry in the semi-final, but I was convinced we’d get over Kerry. This is one that I’d be afraid of.

“Even listening to the Mayo lads, they kind of have unfinished business. And just the focus and preparation for the 18th, it would leave me a little bit wary.”

Mayo's James Horan, EirGrid's Rosemary Steen and Dublin's Ray Cosgrove Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Mayo have lost their last two championship outings to Dublin but have demonstrated that they can match their opponents in the physical stakes.

“I think, again, when you take the drawn game last year, they were four points down and they were driving at Dublin coming into injury-time. So physically they were a match for Dublin.

“Dublin would be cruising through provincial championship matches without even a finger being laid on them. Certainly Mayo won’t fear them after 2012 either. Physically they’ll match up.

“Defensively I think Mayo are a step up from Kerry. If you look at Keith Higgins who is probably a contender for footballer of the year. Lee Keegan, Boyler. Brendan Harrison has progressed since last year. Donie Vaughan.

“I think you’d be very foolish to buy into, ‘Dublin just have to show up’. Because this Mayo team are well experienced and have a big of youth coming through as well.2

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Fintan O'Toole

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