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Dummy teams just look stupid

IT'S official ... Seánie Johnston won't make his first competitive start for Kildare against his erstwhile beloved Cavan on Sunday. The Kildare website says so. The match programme in Breffni Park will state likewise.

Do we believe them? Unofficially?

Don't take this as yet another 'Seánie story' -- we've had our bellyful and, by now, would prefer if this adopted son of Straffan could just get on with the business of playing ball, big or small.

No, this week's bugbear is the business of 'dummy' teams. Not every inter-county boss indulges in the chicanery but quite a few do. Some are recidivist offenders, Kieran McGeeney among the most flagrant.

Compare, for example, the various Kildare team announcements this summer and what has transpired come match-day.

For the Offaly game, we were 'officially' told Aindriú Mac Lochlainn and Alan Smith would start and Michael Foley was earmarked for midfield. Even though 'CSI Hawkfield' could have told you Foley would be playing full-back and Mac Lochlainn and Smith wouldn't start ... their places duly (but indirectly) went to SFC debutant Eoin Doyle and Robert Kelly.

Next up Meath, for which Kildare 'selected' the same 15 players who started against Offaly. Except they didn't: Daryl Flynn and Smith were parachuted in, at the expense of Kelly and Doyle.

Therefore, you can forgive our cynicism at Kildare's latest 'midweek' declaration. It may well be the case that Johnston doesn't start (for several solid reasons pertaining to match sharpness and potential side-effects such as stirring the Breffni beast) but we'll believe nothing until the national anthem.

Geezer, mind you, can hardly claim to be doyen of the dummy team. Our own vague recollection is that Ger Loughnane invented the ruse; whether Clare's answer to Machiavelli was the first, he certainly wasn't the last.

Conor Counihan is another repeat offender -- so much that we were bemused to read one blog, from last summer, claiming the Cork boss "rarely" subscribes to it.

Nor is Pat Gilroy averse to the occasional bout of 'call my bluff'. Last August, he revealed a Friday morning Dublin team that included Eamon Fennell and Eoghan O'Gara even though it was an open secret that Michael Darragh Macauley and Barry Cahill would be starting against Tyrone that Saturday evening.

Does any of this matter? Well, yes and no. When it comes to peddling falsehoods, there are greater crimes. However, the practice makes a mockery of the match programme. It infuriates some supporters and irks plenty of reporters too. We get over it -- eventually -- but we often wonder what the 'fall guy' players make of it all?

Perhaps more seriously, it does nothing for the wider promotion of Gaelic games because newspapers are devoting less and less space to once-cherished information they can no longer trust.