Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dubs tyros must make chance count

Dublin's prospects must start well or risk a summer on the sidelines

Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan could be set to start against Carlow in Saturday night’s Leinster SFC quarter-final in Portlaoise. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan could be set to start against Carlow in Saturday night’s Leinster SFC quarter-final in Portlaoise. Photo: Sportsfile

The bad news for Carlow is that Jim Gavin will pay them as much respect this week as any team Dublin will face at the back end of the Championship.

That's not rhetoric. It's fact.

He won't tolerate even a suggestion of complacency. If anything, he'll be extra vigilant.

It's the sort of match wherein you could see a couple of Dublin players substituted at half-time if they're not putting it fully in, just to make that very point.

It's also the ideal opportunity for Jim to get some Championship game-time into some of his younger players.

Because once you get to the latter stages of the Championship, if a guy isn't tried, tested and trusted, it's unlikely Jim will risk him in a big game.

All managers say summer is a clean slate on which players are picked exclusively on form.


But if we're being realistic, Dublin are going to win on Saturday evening, so the likes of Niall Scully and Conor McHugh, who played in the League, or Con O'Callaghan and Collie Basquel, fellas who didn't get a chance over the spring owing somewhat to their involvement with the U21s, should play some sort of part.

I made my debut in what was expected to be a similar sort of match against Wexford in Dr Cullen Park and only did okay.

I scored a point but I was a bit too quiet before Jason Sherlock came on for me and scored two points to get us over the line in a match we struggled through.

That left Tommy Lyons with a decision to make; does he pick Jayo in the next match or does he stick with me, the new fella in his first year?

I'm sure Tommy had his doubts, but he went with me and I kicked three points against Meath in the semi-final and 1-2 against Kildare in the Leinster final.

It's not overstating it to say my whole inter-county career changed in that Meath game because I showed myself I could cut it against the likes of Cormac Murphy and Mark O'Reilly in a big match in Croke Park.

If Tommy had gone with Jason that day, I'd nearly have had to start all over again the following year.

Con O'Callaghan is the obvious one for Jim to try on Saturday, but I've been really impressed with Basquel as well.

He looks the real deal, has pace too and there's a directness about him that any inter-county forward needs in Croke Park.

There's a lot of expectation around Con now, so there's a bit more pressure on him than anyone else but he's the sort of character that can handle that if he gets the opportunity.

Dublin's forward line has been fairly consistent in its make-up since I retired, so there's no harm in having a couple of newer, fresh elements available.

McHugh is an interesting prospect also. He's had a couple of cracks at it now and there's times in training games when looks like he has everything but despite his obvious talent, he hasn't quite made it yet.

For the older lads, non-selection in the first game is a major blow.

Take my brother Bernard, who was dropped for the All-Ireland final replay last year for the first time since he broke into the team.

It's likely that Dublin will win the next three games with varying degrees of comfort and if the forwards go well and if you're not in the starting team for the first one, you're not going to get in for the next game.

Conversely, you get the nod in the first one and Dublin win well. You get on the end of a move and score a goal and find your range and it's up to others to dislodge you.

So they'll be annoyed if they're not picked and that generates competition and brings an edge to training matches.

For Jim, Saturday is a fact-finding mission. The result may be inevitable but it's imperative that fellas with notions of September glory start to show it in June.

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