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Sunday 20 October 2019

Dub No 3 hails return of 'free spirit' Rory

Rory O’Carroll
Rory O’Carroll

Back in 2010, they formed an almost entirely new Dublin full-back line - Philly McMahon, Rory O'Carroll and Mick Fitzsimons.

Last Saturday against Louth, Fitzsimons was the only one to start but they were reunited on the Portlaoise pitch by the finish.

McMahon came on to plunder Dublin's fifth goal while O'Carroll's first Sky Blue appearance since 2015 was greeted by a huge cheer upon his introduction on 47 minutes.

Back in the day, Fitzsimons and O'Carroll used to share spins to training. Now that he has come home from New Zealand and back into the Dublin fold, is it good to have him once more? "Ah, great," says Fitzsimons. "I would have got on very well with Rory."

O'Carroll had made his SFC debut in 2009 only to swap Dublin's St Clare's training base for Thailand before that year's Leinster final.

"He was always a free spirit," Fitzsimons reasons. "He'd always cherish his education as well and exploring different areas.

"So, it's great that he was playing so well when he came back. I watched the game against Na Fianna and he was playing well to get back in (with Dublin)."

Some might argue that a Dublin defender in possession of O'Carroll's old No 3 jersey should be careful what he wishes for. But Fitzsimons doesn't view him as a threat.

"Not at all actually," he maintains. "The way I see it, if you play your best you put yourself in a great position ... someone new coming in is not going to change that.

"The way I see it, if I can play my best and get to a good level I should be in the team and someone new coming in doesn't change that.

"It just ramps up competition. I think it's usually the way it is; we always get one or two new each year. Like, Eoin Murchan last year was very good."

Fitzsimons also queried the recent narrative that Dublin's full-back line has been vulnerable under aerial assault.

"If you get a good diagonal ball in, it's sometimes difficult to defend," he explains.

"There were good diagonal balls coming in against Kerry, in the league; if teams play good balls in it can be sometimes 50-50.

"It wouldn't be something that we'd obsess about or anything like that. It's just part and parcel of the game and one of the challenges of being in the full-back line.

"Yeah, there's always narratives about the full-back line but I see the full-back line as a product of what's going on further out the field."

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