Tuesday 22 January 2019

Chance now for fringe men to shine

O'Byrne Cup: Dublin v DCU Dóchas éireann, Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 2.0

Dublin’s Conor McHugh
Dublin’s Conor McHugh
Dublin’s Conor Mullally, Ross McGowan and Niall Scully put Dubs Stars’ Steven Smith under pressure in last Sunday’s clash

What we know about Dublin is this.

Paul Clarke will manage them tomorrow, aided by Jim Brogan, when a team representing the county and wearing the jersey start the O'Byrne Cup against DCU in Parnell Park.

A group of players, few of whom played any part in last year's All-Ireland or League successes, have this week begun training under the instruction of Bryan Cullen.

The rest - including management - are currently on holiday in Jamaica, a much later trip than last year on account of the 2016 season ending three weeks later than the previous one.

By consequence, there will be very few All-Ireland medalists participating in this year's O'Byrne Cup unless Dublin go on to the semi-final and final.

Even than, it's unlikely we'll see Dublin anything close to their true guise until their League opener in Cavan on February 5.


What significance that has on their ability to add to their remarkable record of four League titles in the past four years is open to interpretation.

Last year, Éamonn Fitzmaurice noted how hungry Dublin looked on the first night of the competition when his team were again beaten in Croke Park, despite their very obvious scope for early-season motivation.

Spring might take a while to heat up for Dublin this year.

But that's for another day.

As it is, we won't know the scope of Clarke's pick until tomorrow afternoon.

A significant portion of that training panel are tied up with their colleges, rendering them unavailable

One of them is Jack McCaffrey; the 2015 Footballer of the Year, the man who won it all by the age of 22 and decided to take a breather from football in the form of a volunteering trip to Africa last summer.

Having been vocal in his wish to get back in, he is defintely a man to watch in this year's League.

Anyone wishing to watch him tomorrow though, will have to take a trip to Gorey, where he will captain UCD in the other match in Group A of the O'Byrne Cup.

We should, however, see Conor McHugh.

He scored 2-4 on New Year's Day in the annual Dublin Bus/Herald Dubs Stars challenge and though currently studying in DCU, he is ineligible for their Sigerson team and thus unable to play for his college in this competition either. It's a serious opportunity for the silky skilled Na Fianna man.In the 2014 All-Ireland U21 final, he was top scorer (1-6 from play) and Man of the Match in Dessie Farrell's team's victory over Roscommon, outshining the performances of his inside forward colleagues, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello.

Since then, both of those have gone on to big things at senior level where McHugh has stalled. Indeed the likes of Con O'Callaghan and Colm Basquel have pushed their way into a more advanced spot in the snaking queue of inside forwards vying for Jim Gavin's attention, so McHugh needs this opportunity as much as anymore.


Conor Mullaly, who expertly played as sweeper in that Dublin U21 success and like McHugh, spent a brief period on Gavin's squad last year, should also line out here for his county, having been granted an O'Byrne Cup leave of absence from UCD.

DCU won this competition in 2010 and 2012 and remain the only college to do so, though they are currenty in something of a rennovation period.

Last year's Sigerson Cup final loss to UCD was the end of a cycle and the final year of a team and having decided himself to step down as manager, Niall Moyna has reversed that call.

Former Sigerson winners, Dermot Sheridan and Mickey Quinn have come on board as selectors.

Moyna is without holidaying trio Paddy Durcan and Diarmuid O'Connor (Mayo) and Tipperary's Steven O'Brien, though his team on paper still packs plenty of attacking punch.

Roscommon's Ultan Harney, Enda Smith and Donie Smith are joined by Sligo ace Niall Murphy while Kildare's Kevin Feely is also available.

Like Dublin though, tomorrow is more about getting the legs moving again than results.

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