christie's panel step up in crisis
Strength in depth will be put to test as Dublin minors struggle with injuries to key players
Dublin's provincial ambitions will be tested to the full when they encounter Wexford in their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship quarter-final at Innovate Wexford Park next Saturday afternoon (3.0).
Of huge concern to the current holders is a debilitating injury list that threatens to undermine their chances with up to five key personnel in doubt for next weekend.
Definitely ruled out of the equation are Barra McGarry from Ballyboden St Enda's and Seán Caffrey of Na Fianna who both started Dublin's previous match against Offaly while Stephen Smith, who also missed the Offaly game with a dislocated shoulder, is another attacking option that has been denied his manager Paddy Christie.
"We have stacks of injuries," conceded Christie.
"I know certain managers like to give the impression that they're struggling in that regard to use it as a smoke screen but we are definitely missing a few of our regulars for the Wexford match.
"Some of the players won't feature at all and we'd be hoping to have them back for the semi-final if we can get over the Wexford challenge.
"We also have a couple of players like Kevin Callaghan and Shane Howard who would be doubtful for next Saturday so it has been a worrying time in that regard, trying to work around the potential absences that we will have," said Christie.
Despite the potential difficulties created by the injuries suffered by such a large number of his panel, especially as the aforementioned quintet generally feature in attack, Christie is quite sanguine as to the effect their absence will have on affairs.
Dublin's decision to field two teams in the Leinster Minor Football League earlier in the year has allowed Dublin's management to run the rule over a larger number of players that would be considered normal and Christie should find out more about the genuine depth inherent in his panel on Saturday afternoon.
"I suppose this is where the decision to pick two teams of equal strength in the league may work in our favour," said Christie.
"This is going to allow us to find out more about the fringe players that we have involved with the squad although we would have a fair idea about their capabilities and temperament from having seen them earlier in the year.
"Of course, championship is different and a lot of the lads that may feature on Saturday haven't been tested at this level and standard before but having given them a chance in the league earlier in the year, I would be hopeful they possess what we need to do themselves justice if introduced," added the Ballymun Kickhams clubman.
With Dublin eventually finding their feet after a nervous opening to defeat Offaly last month, the panel have returned to training with confidence buoyed by that victory.
Training has been hugely positive, notwithstanding the injuries, and Christie feels his team can derive added impetus from their displays in recent challenge games and the intensity and quality produced in training sessions.
"The management have been very happy with what they've seen from the players since the Offaly game," said the former Dublin full-back.
"We reckon that they have been going very well and the attitude from all the panel has been very good.
"We certainly couldn't complain about the application from the lads and we've definitely got a good bit of work done between challenge matches and high-quality training sessions.
"Of course, the injuries haven't helped us in some ways but you cannot legislate for them as they're part and parcel of training any team.
"The win over Offaly should have helped their confidence especially in the way that they ground out the result.
"We didn't really click into gear in the first-half but I said at the time that I thought Offaly were a decent team and that has proved the case where they went on to beat Westmeath before being very unlucky to lose to Kildare last week.
"Everything is relative at this level and we appreciate that Leinster is a very competitive province.
"Certainly, we expect a similarly tough match against Wexford at the weekend," he added.
With Dublin having such a relatively inexperienced panel with very few players having been involved in last year's run to the All Ireland semi-final, their first road trip on Saturday will further test their collective maturity.
"To be honest, we would have loved another game in Parnell Park and I think having home advantage is a huge bonus for Wexford, not just in terms of support but also their familiarity with the surroundings.
"We can't complain as we had that advantage the last day and it's just another obstacle that we have to overcome.
"Like Offaly, Wexford will always have a couple of decent games in them a year and we would be very wary of them and the threat that they present.
"With no back-door for either team, it really is make or break for us on Saturday.
"Having so many injuries certainly isn't ideal and it's all about scraping out a win by any manner and building on our campaign from there.
"It's really like an All-Ireland for us on Saturday and it we can manage to squeeze through by a point, then everyone involved with the team would be delighted," he concluded.