Dublin’s recent dominance in the Leinster and All-Ireland football championships have opened up conversations on funding, viability of provincial structures and a potential split of the county to make the competition more competitive. Dublin, however, are not the first team to monopolise their sport. Compared to their professional counterparts across the world, it is actually relatively tame. This begs the question, who have been the most dominant teams in the history of sport?
What are the metrics for judging this? Teams who have had sustained/unprecedented success over a period of time in a sport or league which is traditionally very competitive. Hence why teams such as Celtic and Rangers are not going to be included.
Boston Celtics 1957-69
The Boston Celtics were the original great NBA franchise winning 11 titles in 13 years including an 8 in a row between 1959-67. Although there were only 12 teams in the NBA at the time, this also meant that the best players were focused throughout the whole league with most teams having at least 3 top players in their side. Every great team needs to have an all time great player and Bill Russell was that marquee man. He was the Michael Jordan of his era winning 11 NBA titles in his career which is an NBA record.
When it comes to rugby, no nation defines the sport other than the New Zealand All Blacks. They won the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and consecutive tournaments in 2011 and 2015. The Haka is a war dance performed before each match which strikes fear into the opposition and creates an aura of invincibility about them. What makes the All Blacks so unique is that unlike most teams, they have never experienced a dip in results and historically have always been the standard bearers for world rugby. They have a 77%-win record in test rugby and are the only side in the sport to have a better win loss record against every team. In simple terms, there is no rugby without New Zealand, there is no New Zealand without rugby.
Real Madrid 1955-1969
The original Galacticos backed by Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco were the dominant team of the ‘50s and ‘60s winning five European Cups in a row between 1955 and 1960 along with 9 league titles, 2 domestic cups and an Intercontinental Cup (now Club World Cup). Even for the investment put into the team, it is quite a staggering achievement and made the club the powerhouse that they are today. Players like Puskas and Di Stefano were the Messi and Ronaldo of their era and brought the sport to new heights.
Kilkenny Hurling Team 2006-2015:
One could argue that it is only fair that GAA is included in some shape or form in this piece. Kilkenny are the closest thing we have seen in hurling to Dublin’s current dominance in the big ball. Between 2006 and 2015 the cats under Brian Coady won 8 All Ireland’s in 10 years and were in the final in 2010 where their five in a row bid was thwarted by Tipperary. Their success coincided with some of the greatest players to ever grace Croke Park such as Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, and Eoin Larkin just to name a few. They brought an intensity and skillset which had never been seen before and like all great teams, took the sport to a new level. Cody is still at the helm but for how much longer is anyone’s guess.
Cork Ladies Football:
While Dublin have been the most dominant team in the men’s game, Cork’s success in the sport is unparalleled. The Rebelettes won five in a row between 2005 (first ever title) and 2009, coming up short in 2010 before doing a 6 in a row between 2011 and 2016. A truly phenomenal feat made even greater by the fact that the team featured a number of duel players including Bridge Corkery and Rena Buckley who have an astonishing 36 All-Ireland medals between them. A special team who perhaps have not received the credit that they deserve.
Some honourable mentions must go to the New York Yankees teams of the 1940s and ‘50s who put baseball on the map for those outside of the US. The Kerry women’s gaelic football team who achieved 9 in a row between 1982-1990. There have been a couple of teams who have gone under the radar in soccer such as Sheriff Tiraspol who won the Moldovan league 10 times in a row from 2000 to 2010. Gibraltar side Lincoln Red Imps won 14 league titles in a row from 2002 to 2016. The main reason however that no football team besides United make the list is that none of them were able to repeat the success in Europe.