Lord of the skies: Dublin's Darren Magee dominated the kick-outs last weekend in Croke Park as Anthony Moyles and his Meath teammates found out

When it comes to games involving Dublin – or games involving most Gaelic football teams when we come to think of it – you get the impression The Sunday Game panel with Michael Lyster are trying to be more like The Panel on a Monday night with Dara O'Briain.

Last week, the resident comedians Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly were tripping over one another trying to get gags in at the expense of Pat Gilroy's team.

"You would see more movement in statues than you would in two of their full-forwards," cracked Spillane. "They looked like fellas who were assembled at Quinn's two hours ago and were told they were going to play a match."

"Dublin were comical," agreed Brolly. "At times it was like Laurel and Hardy with them fisting the ball wide from three yards out."

To be fair to The Sunday Game panel, they were more entertaining than both the Monday Panel and the game itself and it wasn't as if Dublin hadn't provided them with some decent material, but the rush to slag off the Dubs and write off their All Ireland aspirations was ridiculously excessive and premature.

It is early June. In early June, 2001, Galway were beaten in their own Tuam Stadium by Roscommon. They finished that year as All Ireland champions.

In Armagh's first couple of games of 2002 RTÉ thought so little of Armagh that they didn't even broadcast live their jousts against the national league champions Tyrone. When Joe Kernan's men allowed Seán Cavanagh in for a late goal in the drawn game they were slated for being overly cautious and lacking the mental edge to close out the close games. Armagh ended that year as All Ireland champions, going without a single score for the last 12 minutes.

In early June 2003, Joe Brolly wasn't raving about Tyrone and their omnipotent, all-conquering "system". Instead he was describing the reigning back-to-back National League champions as "more like an under-21 team" that lacked "power and tend to lose confidence in the close games" while their mediocre if comfortable win over Antrim prompted barbs about Brian Dooher and straw hats.

In mid-summer 2004, when Kerry drew with Limerick in the Munster final, an animated Spillane was complaining about their "lack of consistency". The same Kerry were reigning league champions and the same Kerry a couple of months later were resounding All Ireland champions.

On the second Sunday of June 2005, Tyrone were lucky to escape with a draw against Cavan.

In mid-summer 2006, Kerry were beaten by Cork by six points.

This time last year Tyrone were beaten by Down.

We're not saying that Dublin will follow that trend of going from chumps to champs.

What we are saying is that Dublin's performance last week was no worse than most performances by All Ireland champions at this time of year.

In fact, it was a pretty commanding one except for one glaring failing: their shooting, of course.

In 2003, the reigning All Ireland champions, Armagh, played Donegal in an All Ireland semi-final. Twelve months earlier they had entered another All Ireland semi-final with the tag of 'Croker Chokers' attached to them but having beaten Dublin that day and then Kerry the following month, suddenly they were seen in a completely different light. Anytime they failed to put away a game they were dominating was now seen as a game they always had under control, rather than one that had again exposed "their lack of a killer instinct". That day against Donegal, Armagh kicked 22 wides. Twenty two! But instead of hammering their wastefulness, instead we all praised their poise, how they kept winning kick-out after kick-out after shooting wide after wide, how their body language or intensity never changed.

Dublin will never enjoy the dispensation of champions until they are champions but they should at least be given some credit for displaying the same stoicism and persistence last week. As bad a wide count as 17 waves from the umpires is, Dublin had only shot nine wides by the time they had scored their 13th point. Tyrone in their first half against Armagh had only been successful with six of their 14 attempts on goal, a return of just 43 per cent. Who mocked Tyrone's profligacy?

Many of Dublin's 17 wides were freak misses more than they were bad misses. Barry Cahill, Ger Brennan and Pat Burke all fisted wide, as Brolly put, it from almost three yards. Next day out, if they get into similar positions, at least two of them will go over.

Other aspects of Dublin's performance were hugely impressive. Darren Magee won nine kick-outs, four of which initiated Dublin scores. Barry Cahill was onto five breaking balls. Ger Brennan did well. Their team at one stage won 16 consecutive kick-outs. Even allowing for Meath's complicity, it was a phenomenal streak of domination by Dublin that should be lauded.

The truth is Dublin hammered Meath everywhere last week except on the scoreboard. And what if they had hammered them there as well? Didn't they do that to Wexford last year?

After last Sunday's game Spillane castigated not just the fare on view but the two teams. "It showed that Leinster is the weakest, lowest standard of the four provinces," spouted Pat. "If you put those two teams together they wouldn't threaten the top five teams."

Pat must really have enjoyed Roscommon-Leitrim in Carrick.

You have to go back to 2002 for the last time three teams from the west made the All Ireland quarter-finals. You only have to go back to last year to find when three Leinster sides made it that far. Three different Leinster teams have reached an All Ireland semi-final this past two years. Only two Ulster sides this past four years have gone that far.

Meath are the second-last team to beat Tyrone in championship football (Laois, by the way, are the third-last. Not bad going for a team from the worst province in football).

Pat also asserted that the pick of last Sunday's two teams wouldn't trouble any of "the top five teams in the country". It was a pretty damning statement considering he'd discarded both Derry and Monaghan a couple of weeks earlier as "two mediocre teams". Lookit, Dublin aren't world-beaters. They're not even one of the top three teams in the country. But maybe they're the fifth and surely with a bit of help from a few Meath boys, they'd trouble this mythical, unidentifiable, fifth best team in the country.

It took Anthony Tohill (below left) on The Sunday Game's night programme for an RTÉ pundit to put Dublin's performance into context. Yes, he accepted, Dublin had left a lot of scores behind them but they could work on that. They'd get better in general. But in all it was a good day at the office. Tohill may not be as much fun as his day-time colleagues but he talks like a man who has actually played the game in this century.

Tohill's last game as an inter-county footballer was against Dublin. He lost that day in Clones. He knows how hard they are to beat and he knows how much they've come on since.

Five years ago last week Dublin played in another Leinster quarter-final that finished 0-14 to 0-12. Except that day they lost. It was the day Páidí and Westmeath ambushed them, the day fathers clutching their children bayed at Tommy Lyons as he exited the Croke Park arena.

Dublin have not lost a Leinster championship match since. They've routinely beaten Meath and Laois and Wexford teams that have beaten Tyrone and Derry and Armagh.

This year may or may not be, as Liam Horan's Championship Man would put it, "The Year for the Dubs". It probably won't be. That full-back line still looks vulnerable and unproven. But they're in a lot better place than they were five years ago and they're in a lot better place than most other teams in the country. They're now virtually assured of a spot in the Leinster final and the last 12 of the All Ireland series. They'll be playing into late July at least, by which time Bryan Cullen will have bucked up and Ciarán Whelan, Shane Ryan and Jayo will be ready for road.

When or if they return, so might the much-talked-about hype. The truth is, the hype is actually more hyped than the Dubs ever are. Dublin are bashed more than they're ever hyped.

See them for what they are: a top-five team going for five-in-a-row in Leinster that are bravely and honestly and desperately trying to make this 'The Year'.

Last Sunday didn't show whether it will be or it won't. All it reminded us was that Dublin can't win until they win it all.