Monday 20 November 2017

Dubs must hit target

Gilroy's troops need their shooting boots to expel UCD students

WHEN you are All-Ireland champions, there are expectations. Firstly, there is the expectation that you treat the early arrival of October/November/December nightfall as the ideal opportunity to re-acquaint oneself with victorious team-mates in wholly less athletic environs.

Then there is the expectation that when arising from deep hibernation in January, the All-Ireland champion finds himself with a large gloop of padded flesh where once his midriff used to ripple.


And then, inevitably, there is the expectation that the All-Ireland champions will flap about harmlessly in the league, possibly avoiding relegation on the last day of the campaign, before mounting a forceful but unsuccessful attempt at retaining Sam Maguire, an event which -- regardless of the actual circumstances -- is promptly attributed to hunger, or lack thereof.

There are varying degrees of the theme, but the principle stays the same.

Last year, for instance, Cork arrived back from their All-Ireland team holiday just a week before the start of the league and going against all known tradition, promptly won the thing.

They fell foul of the most self-assured Mayo team to play in Croke Park in generations in the All-Ireland quarter-final, though, and so followed the well-trodden path of the vanquished champions.

Dublin, for all the gushing celebration which their win spawned, don't look too interested on living on recent-past glories, even at this embryonic stage of the season.

The theory put forward around the county that in 2012 the league isn't really worth the hassle is set to be ignored by Gilroy. In both 2010 and 2011, Dublin produced league campaigns in which they competed in every game, picked up wins against top sides and the installation of consistency into Dublin's make-up can be at least partly attributed to this.

In that context, how important is the O'Byrne Cup?

The answer is: not very. But a programme of competitive matches gives Gilroy the chance to acquire a winning habit and to run the rule over an albeit small number of newcomers.

Last week in Carlow, they all performed reasonably well. Míceal McCarthy looks a decent prospect and with Bernard Brogan set to miss the opening rounds of the league, there is a vacant spot to fill between now and then.

Tonight, he will meet a man who he has sparred with on a number of occasions in 'A' versus 'B' contests, Rory O'Carroll, who has all the size and tricks to match those of McCarthy.

Dublin's three new defenders, Davy Byrne, Karl Connolly and John Small (all Ballymun Kickhams men) acquitted themselves to the point where none looked out of place in their new illustrious environs. Yet it was left to the likes of Michael Darragh Macauley, Tomás Quinn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bryan Cullen to steer Dublin to a convincing victory when, at one stage, it appeared as if the Sam Maguire holders would lose first day back.

Clearly, the skills aren't sharp and, in particular, Dublin's shooting was abysmal in the first half but the effort was in attendance and as long as his players provide that, Gilroy can have no complaints.

All-Ireland final goal-scoring hero Kevin McManamon has been added to the squad for this weekend and will no doubt be warmly welcomed back to action by the Parnell Park faithful if and when he makes an appearance.


UCD arrived at this round by beating Laois by four points last week in Crettyard, a victory which neither confirmed their greatness nor Laois' inadequacies.

Donie Kingston, who has taken a year out of inter-county service, was their contributor-in-chief and given the size and girth of the man, Gilroy would surely love to have Ross O'Carroll, now departed to Anthony Daly's hurlers, in his corner right now.

Dublin's representation on the UCD team is completed by the athletic Craig Dias -- who played wing-back last week -- and burly midfielder Colm Murphy, both of whom are sure to be as eager to impress Gilroy as they are his St Vincent's club-mate and UCD stalwart, Dave Billings.

Dublin ran hard at Carlow and if they can mix up the point of their attack and improve in front of the post, another outing beckons.

ODDS: Dublin 4/9, Draw 15/2, UCD 11/5


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