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Saturday 25 March 2017

Scully leads the way for Gavin's Blue wannabes

Niall Scully. Pic: Sportsfile
Niall Scully. Pic: Sportsfile

Question: Would you rather be (a) an aspiring Dublin footballer who has just made a telling impact in your county's comeback victory against Kildare; or (b) an established Lilywhite left doubting yourself in the wake of this same match?

The knee-jerk answer is obviously (a). Who wants to be a loser, after all?

But pause a minute. It's conceivable that a few of the young Dubs who stormed down the home straight in Newbridge will get a chance among the big boys next month. But how many? And for how long?

There may be a few openings in Jim Gavin's squad but we're talking lower single digits.

A majority of those who have bucked expectation to reach next Sunday's Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup final, against Louth in Drogheda, will have quietly slipped back into the periphery by the time the Dubs decamp to Breffni Park for round one of the Allianz League on Sunday week. For them, Hill 16 and/or the sanctuary of their club beckons.

Floundered

Whereas most of the Kildare team that ultimately floundered last Sunday will have a key role in their Division Two campaign.

Cian O'Neill didn't mince his words as he reflected on a painful defeat to what, in essence, was a third-string Dublin team. Commentators took it as further stark evidence of the chasm that has grown between Leinster's kingpins and one of their putative main rivals.

But the Kildare boss knows there isn't a glut of ready-made county footballers, gambolling up and down the Curragh, just waiting to be discovered. True, the county possesses plenty of Leinster-winning underage graduates; but its flagship team is in transition and O'Neill's onerous job is to maximise the potential of this current group.

Meanwhile, Paul Clarke's hungry wannabes just carry on, defying the odds as they go deeper into January.

Their interim manager had encouraging words for his players last Sunday, with special mention for Niall Scully, Conor McHugh and Ross Hazley, their midfield powerhouse from St Sylvester's. Yet he also underlined what needs to happen next if players such as these are to progress further.

Scully had featured, thus far, at wing-back but was moved to wing-forward against Kildare. His buzzing display was crowned by three second half points.

"I just wanted to have a look at Niall in the half-forward line, knowing that he had pace ... but he still has that work ethic of tackling and working back. He is a great talent, a great engine; we've known that over the years," Clarke explained.

"Looking at a Dublin team or panel at the moment, you look at the competition in a certain line. You might say, 'Well, you are moving me from half-back where there is tough competition to a half-forward line where there is greater competition?' So am I doing him any favours?"

But he added: "His performance today might just drive him on to want a little bit more from it."

Barcelona

McHugh was an even bigger star than Scully on the last Dublin team to claim All-Ireland U21 glory, in 2014. He finished Sunday's game strongly, with a converted free, assist and score from play in the closing minutes - but again, the com petition for an inside forward berth (on Gavin's panel, never mind team) would scarcely be greater if he played for Barcelona.

"Conor has been primed for bigger and better things," Clarke reminded. "We know his talent. He has good hands, he has good feet. It's for him to realise that himself and bring it on."

No time for resting on laurels. Even in January.

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