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Monday 5 December 2016

Keaney may be next in Dublin exodus

Experienced duo Alan Nolan and Simon Lambert let go as Ger Cunningham cranks up his plans for second season in charge

Conal Keaney celebrates Ballyboden St Enda’s win over Portlaoise in the AIB Leinster Club SFC final on Sunday
Conal Keaney celebrates Ballyboden St Enda’s win over Portlaoise in the AIB Leinster Club SFC final on Sunday
Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan, now dropped from the county panel, tussles with Galway’s Ronan Burke during the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic in Boston

Conal Keaney may be on the brink of ending his inter-county hurling career with Dublin.

An extended Dublin panel met with management last night to outline their plans for 2016, with several notable omissions - Keaney included.

Experienced duo, Alan Nolan and Simon Lambert were dropped by Ger Cunningham late last week while Danny Sutcliffe informed management over the weekend that he will not be playing for Dublin next season.

Similarly, there are indications now that Keaney will not be involved, bringing to an end his hurling and football inter-conty career which began back in 2001.

On Sunday, Keaney played a key role for Ballyboden St Enda's in their first provincial club football title and afterwards, he cast doubt on his continued involvement with Dublin.

"I don't really know what's happening with Dublin," he explained, immediately after a one-point win over Portlaoise in O'Connor Park.

"I haven't talked to Ger. So I've just been concentrating on this.

"Maybe I'm too old to play any more. I don't know."

Asked whether he had weighed up his options for 2016 prior to 'Boden's win, Keaney admitted: "It's always on your mind."

"You're always trying to look at yourself because there's always a season ahead or there's always something coming down the line but you know, I think I have to really look at it.

"I'm 33 now," he added, "and is it the right thing for me or is it the right thing for Dublin to keep going? I don't know.

Keaney added: "Just as well we won so the decision won't be for a while," although the Herald understands that he will now meet with Cunningham before the end of the week.

"I always enjoy going back playing football. It's something different," Keaney explained.

"You get…not that you get sick of it, but you're doing the same thing the whole time going county hurling training…it's nearly like a break coming back playing football."

Ballyboden will play either Clonmel Commercials or Tir Chonaill Gaels on the weekend of the 23rd/24th of January, two weeks before the first round of Allianz Hurling League fixtures.

Were they to qualify for the final, however, Keaney would be tied up until after St Patrick's Day, just three days before Dublin play their last scheduled Division 1A match against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park.

Exclusion

It means that almost a third of the team that started Cunnigham's first Championship match as Dublin manager - a draw with Galway back in May - wont be involved next season.

Nolan, who was nominated for an All Star a recently as last year, was preferred to Gary Maguire in both the drawn Galway match and the replay and was one of three goalkeepers used by Cunningham in the 'Fenway Super 11s' match in Boston.

He was also awarded Man of the Match in the 2013 Leinster SHC final.

As a consequence of his exclusion, Conor Dooley will serve as goalkeeping understudy to clubmate Maguire next year.

Keaney and Lambert formed two-thirds of Dublin's half-back line in those games against the Tribesmen and while Sutcliffe's season couldn't be considered vintage by his own standards, his decision to opt out is a considerable blow to Dublin.

Speaking as recently as last week, Sutcliffe gave no indication that he would leave.

The St Jude's man is undergoing a Masters in Finance in DCU and had planned on spending a year in America in 2017 and so may now actually miss at least two seasons of action for Dublin.

Sutcliffe spent a short time in exile last summer after a disagreement with management but he subsequently came back and formed part of the squad which travelled to Boston.

It appears unlikely that he will play again for Cunningham.

Success

Similarly, there are no signs of a comeback for Michael Carton, Alan McCrabbe or Ross O'Carroll - all of whom left the squad at various stages last year.

Oisín Gough, who captained Cuala to their Dublin SHC title, has returned, however, while Seán Treacy - younger brother of Dublin foward, David - has been called up on the back of strong form in their county success and subsequent run to the Leinster final.

A number of newer faces were also present at last night's team meeting.

Rian McBride, Fiontán McGibb, Chris Bennett, Cian MacGabhann and James Madden all travelled to Boston in November and management have decided to invest their faith last year's Under 21s.

Management are confident that Peter Kelly will be fit for the start of next year's League after knee surgery while Ryan O'Dwyer is expected to make a full recovery from his attack in Birmingham in October.

'Dotsy' O'Callaghan is currently travelling in North America but is expected to return for another year.

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