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Sunday 26 January 2020

Dublin's late training return to have some fringe benefits for new players

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell
Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Dublin's marquee stars will have no time to compare holiday snaps as they head straight back into training tomorrow.

The clock is ticking for the five-in-a-row heroes of 2019, most of whom only returned from their team holiday in Bali over the weekend.

And that gives Dessie Farrell minimal time to prepare his squad - physically and tactically - for their taxing first Allianz League test, against beaten All-Ireland finalists Kerry on Saturday week.

"We hope to be back on the field on Tuesday night," the new Dublin manager confirmed after Saturday's narrow O'Byrne Cup exit (with an experimental squad) in Longford.

Asked if he planned on having a training camp next weekend, Farrell replied: "We won't go away, no. We'll train and we'll have a couple of meetings, for sure.

"There's definitely a lot of work to do. We're also conscious that certain fellas have miles on the clock as well that we maybe need to look after a little as well.

"It's going to be an opportunity to blood new players, and some fellas that have been on the panel for a couple of seasons now get to see the light of day and get some games."

There may also be a chance for one or two of Farrell's off-Broadway performers in the O'Byrne Cup to stake a claim to a place in his league squad going forward.

Intense

The competition, however, is sure to be intense given that - apart from the bulk of last year's panel - another cohort of Sigerson Cup players as well as Ballyboden's vanquished All-Ireland contenders were not in the frame last weekend.

His O'Byrne Cup squad had been picked on the basis of two trial games, but the commitment levels shown as Dublin battled a more experienced Longford line-up has given the manager something to ponder.

"We're going to have a look at the tape. The intention is definitely to bring a couple of lads forward," he outlined.

"There's a few fellas that weren't available to us today, playing Sigerson, that will probably be in the mix as well."

Farrell went on: "I'm well used to coming down to Longford over the years and meeting this type of atmosphere down here. Obviously Longford people are very passionate about their football and you could see that outside there.

"It was great to get out on the pitch to be honest after the last couple of weeks. Ultimately, it's about playing football and that started for us today in earnest."

But whereas Dublin fans were left incandescent by the award of Longford's late match-winning free, Farrell wasn't overly perturbed even while describing it as "soft".

"It doesn't really matter, to be honest," he demurred.

"I was glad we were competitive, to see how players respond in that type of a cauldron. Because it's always in the balance there and that's when you can see real footballers stand up and show their character and that type of thing.

Whitewash

"I was glad it finished that way rather than a whitewash on either side which would tell you nothing ... obviously Longford were very keen to put the Dubs on the back foot and, similarly for our fellas, they were trying to impress. There was a lot of stake for those guys."

Stephen Cluxton was spotted in Pearse Park on Saturday but, even though he has recommitted for a 20th season, his shoulder injury will keep him sidelined for most if not all of the league.

That spells opportunity for either Evan Comerford or Michael Shiel, last year's third-choice 'keeper and the only member of the 2019 panel to feature in Longford.

Asked if Comerford is likely to get the league nod, Farrell didn't offer a definitive answer but hinted so, saying: "Evan has been the understudy to Stephen for the last number of years, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him."

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