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Bugler looks pick of the young players

St Oliver Plunkett's star has all the talents to be a real addition to Dublin squad says Curran

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TOP FORM: Seán Bugler in action for Dublin against Monaghan during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

TOP FORM: Seán Bugler in action for Dublin against Monaghan during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

TOP FORM: Seán Bugler in action for Dublin against Monaghan during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Seán Bugler has yet to start an Allianz Football League under Dessie Farrell, but already he has emerged as the most likely contender to force his way into what some might perceive as the Gaelic football equivalent of Fort Knox - Dublin's championship team.

The St Oliver Plunkettt's/Eoghan Ruadh clubman no longer qualifies as a complete senior novice - he didn't disappoint when given his big starting chance by Jim Gavin in Omagh last August.

Nor is he a stranger to Farrell from his involvement with the All-Ireland-winning Dublin U21s in 2017.

But after Saturday night's point-salvaging heroics against Monaghan in Croke Park, he is now the first name on the roll call of rookies seeking to establish longer-term tenancy on Team Dessie.

"He has it all, this fella," enthuses Paul Curran, who blooded Bugler in senior club football during his two-year stint as Plunkett's manager.

"In fairness to Dessie, on Saturday he showed us all that he's willing to throw young fellas in. Three Kilmacud fellas started - two in attack and one in defence.

"Certainly Bugler's performance after coming in was a big one. He kicked three points but he also set up the goal," the former Dublin star adds, alluding to Bugler's crucial input in attacking a speculative 'Garryowen' and fisting the ball straight into the path of Kevin McManamon.

Of all the young guns seeking senior elevation, Curran wouldn't be surprised if Bugler, 22 next month, makes the strongest case. He also expects the new regime to embrace the opportunity to keep things fresh.

In fairness, it was a recurring feature of Jim Gavin's all-conquering reign that at least one rising star would emerge every season - bar perhaps in his swansong campaign - to stake a regular starting claim.

Ciarán Kilkenny had already made his debut in 2012 but '13 was his real breakthrough year; likewise Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey. It was less apparent in 2014, but Nicky Devereux did start four of Dublin's five SFC games.

In 2016 you had John Small and David Byrne; followed in 2017 by Con O'Callaghan and Niall Scully; the latter became even more firmly established in 2018, alongside Brian Howard and Eoin Murchan.

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IN CONTROL: Dan O’Brien of Dublin in action against Conor McCarthy of Monaghan at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo: SPORTSFILE

IN CONTROL: Dan O’Brien of Dublin in action against Conor McCarthy of Monaghan at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

This constant regeneration kept marquee men on their toes. It helped propel Dublin towards greatness.

Now Farrell's job is to keep them there.

While Gavin had already mined O'Callaghan, Howard and Murchan from the Dublin team that landed the 2017 All-Ireland U21 title, Farrell has continued to trawl through the same squad that he steered to the summit.

He has already used eight players who featured in the 2017 decider against Galway: Evan Comerford, Murchan and Howard have started all three league games, Dan O'Brien has started two, while Aaron Byrne, Paddy Small, Cillian O'Shea and Colm Basquel have seen some action (fleeting or more sustained) off the bench.

Injury

Con O'Callaghan was full-forward on that U21 team before quickly morphing into a stellar senior. He has yet to feature this spring because of a shoulder injury.

Bugler - then just out of minor - was also part of that U21 squad, making one start and two substitute appearances in Leinster before injury struck. Otherwise, he may well have seen game-time in the final too.

He made his full league debut against Galway 12 months ago; his SFC baptism off the bench against Louth last May; and then announced himself to a wider audience on his first summer start against Tyrone in the Super 8s, scoring a stylish 0-3 and assisting Eoghan O'Gara for a late goal.

Sceptics were quick to attach a 'dead rubber' caveat, but Curran counters: "I wouldn't dismiss the Tyrone game. I think it's unfair on him ... at the end of the day you're playing senior inter-county championship, and it doesn't really matter what circumstances there are.

"You're playing for your county and you've got to go out and perform, and he ended up being Man of the Match.

"I think too many people were too quick to discount his performance, simply because it was billed as a dead rubber and nobody gave it much thought and Dublin were able to win a 'nothing game'. But he stood out."

Bugler made the match-day squad for the semi-final against Mayo a week later. He wasn't on the '26' for either final showdown with Kerry.

"I did say after that (Tyrone) match that we mightn't see him again until 2020," says Curran, "just because of the set-up and the way Jim works - that this fella had got his taste and he goes back now to think about what he needs to improve on.

"He was, I think, unlucky that he didn't see any more game-time after that. But, you know, Dublin are a different animal - hard to break into.

"I think they're a different animal this year as well, and it will be easier for a fella like him to break in."

Curiously, Bugler hasn't started any of the three league fixtures to date; but he was on the field for well over half-an-hour against Kerry between blood-sub and permanent sub cameos, and then was pivotal to their grandstand comeback from nine down against Monaghan.

Curran doesn't single out any one talent: rather his mastery of many.

"A great young player. Has all the attributes. A good tackler. Two feet. Very fit," the Herald columnist proclaims.

"Not only is he a good footballer but he has a great brain as well. He's one of those footballers that it doesn't look like he's doing much but he's covering ground. He has great balance, let's put it that way."

During his two years under Curran at Plunkett's - in 2017 and '18 - he played in a variety of forward positions but he also lined out at midfield and even once at centre-back.

"I think he's better coming onto it rather than having to be in an advanced position, win a ball and turn and go. I think he's far better maybe out the field, in a little bit of space, where he can operate and get on ball and make things happen," reckons the 1995 All-Ireland winner.

"He is a creative player as well. He doesn't waste much ball, and that's the one thing I really noticed about him when I was working with him. It's hard to take the ball off him. He does not spill the ball. He doesn't give it away. His percentage in passing is very high. And fellas like that are very important to a set-up."

Over the coming weeks and months, we might find out just how important ...