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Tuesday 20 November 2018

Dubs chasing massive win to progress in O'Byrne Cup

Paul Clarke, Dublin’s stand-in manager for the O’Byrne Cup. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Paul Clarke, Dublin’s stand-in manager for the O’Byrne Cup. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

It probably didn't come across exactly how he meant it but Paul Clarke had a point when he discussed what looks increasingly likely to be his last match as temporary Dublin manager for 2018.

"If they can keep us to 16 points or 15 points, they'll see it as a bit of a morale victory," he said of his trial Dublin team's next O'Byrne Cup match against Wexford in Enniscorthy this Sunday (2.0).

It wasn't that Dublin's stand-in boss was judging his teams' pending opposition in terms of what hypothetical handicap they might give them. Due to Wednesday evening's draw with Offaly in Parnell Park, 16 is precisely the minimum number of points Dublin must win by on Sunday if they are to progress to the semi-final of this year's O'Byrne Cup.

Even then, they must tally more than the 3-16 Offaly managed against the Slaneysiders in their opening fixture in Tullamore last Saturday.

And given they can no longer quality for the knockout stage themselves, Wexford might consider preventing Dublin from winning the chance to defend their O'Byrne Cup a triumph of sorts.

Dublin’s Colm Basquel who impressed against Offaly in Wednesday night’s Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup clash. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Colm Basquel who impressed against Offaly in Wednesday night’s Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup clash. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"We can only deal with what we have," Clarke explained after his team squandered both a five-point half-time lead and second half wind advantage to draw in their 2018 opener with a squad that contained just eight of last year's victorious panel.

"We'll look at our players tonight. We'll talk to them tomorrow. We'll have a session on maybe Friday and assess how things are going.

Abridged

"We'll put a team on the bus and a squad on the bus that want to go down and win the game.

"Like, we always knew were going to have to win it," he added. "Now we're just putting a figure on it - a number on it.

"We'll go down and give it a shot. And Wexford will not make it easy for us. By no means, they will not make it easy."

The abridged format of this year's tournament - minus the college teams - means the margin for error is tighter than usual.

Last year, Dublin lost to UCD in the second of their group games and still managed to get through to the last-four. Now, they could finish the round-robin stage unbeaten and still lose out and not progress.

Offaly's impressively quick start to the year means it is unlikely now that Clarke will have as comprehensive a report to hand to Jim Gavin upon his return from South Africa as he did last year.

Yet if, as with 2017, O'Byrne Cup form is rewarded with early selection in the league, a couple of Dubs have already made a sturdy case for themselves.

Colm Basquel has All-Ireland medals at senior, U21 and club levels and has been perched on the periphery of Jim Gavin's match day squad for the past season.

On Wednesday night, he kicked 1-6 (3f) and looked every inch a cert to start against Kildare in Croke Park on the League's opening night on January 27. Ditto Shane Carthy.

In 2013, Carthy made his inter-county debut while still a Leaving Cert student in Portmarnock Community School.

Just over a year later, the Dublin county board revealed he had opted off both Dessie Farrell's U21 squad and Gavin's senior panel as he received treatment for depression.

His impact on the Dublin's recent All-Ireland triumphs has, therefore, been negligible and he was one of the players dropped by Gavin last spring .

Tired

But he is both young enough and sufficiently talented to make a go of his second coming.

And the portents are good.

Thought he lined out at centre-forward on Wednesday, Carthy exerted huge influence around midfield, an area Jim Gavin isn't exactly tired from sifting through his high-quality options and the only position to be affected by retirement from last year's squad after Denis Bastick called it a day.

Brian Howard, meanwhile, played at centre-back, not a spot Gavin is currently sparse of bodies in but one of the many the Raheny man could conceivably be in the frame to start in come January 27, even if further opportunities to impress are unlikely after Sunday.

"You could look back on some missed chances they had in the first half and we had in the second half," Clarke surmised.

"But probably the draw was a fair result."

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