THE ANNUAL Evening Herald/Dublin Bus Dubs Stars Football celebration produced its usual share of thrills and spills as Dublin eventually got the better of the Dubs Stars selection by 3-14 to 1-18 in an entertaining encounter at St Brigid's last Saturday afternoon.
The well-attended game has become a fixture in the Dublin GAA calendar and has been given added resonance in the past two years due to the blanket ban on training for county teams over November and December, with Dublin manager Pat Gilroy grateful for the opportunity of seeing his charges in action as he looks to build on the progress made over the past 12 months.
“I think the lads were moving reasonably well,” said Gilroy. “I think fellas, when playing on this surface, take care of themselves. “It's well worthwhile. It's the kind of game that you like to have when there's a lot of scores.
“Today is our first day back and then we're back training properly on Tuesday, trying to work off the excesses of the Christmas although most of the lads seem in good shape to be fair.” With Dublin scheduled to face Westmeath in the O'Byrne Cup next Sunday afternoon, Gilroy's is likely to have an experimental team in action due to a variety of factors but is happy to put a positive spin on events.
“We're looking forward to that,” he said. “There is an awful lot of players we can't use for various reasons. It was 24 at the last count who were either with colleges, injured or playing for Kilmacud. “Because of that, it will be a new-look team I suppose playing through the next month. “It's no harm at all. It just means we have avery big squad training at the moment. It's good for fellas as well to get a chance.”
Gilroy also confirmed that early-morning training is on the agenda again, weather permitting, before focussing on the high-profile National League games scheduled for Croke Park in the coming months. “I think it's good, good for the newer fellas anyway,” he went on. “Playing games in Croke Park is always a good thing because at the end of the day that's where the most important games get played so I think it's a very good thing for us and it's a privilege to play games there.”
Gilroy confirmed that Ross McConnell, Eamonn Fennell and Paul Flynn will out until the end of February, with all three unavailable as a legacy of injuries picked up last year. On a more positive note, former captain Paul Griffin is back engaged in full running and is likely to appear at some stage for Dublin by the end of the month, club commitments notwithstanding. His Kilmacud Crokes clubmate, Rory O'Carroll, turned his ankle in the opening stages of Saturday's encounter and was replaced as a precautionary measure in the first quarter which also witnessed minor injuries for Craig Dias, Paul Brogan and Cian Mullins.
These stoppages seemed to affect the county team more as the Dubs Stars raced into an early lead with Tomás Quinn and Brian Kavanagh looking lively from the start but two impressive points from Dean Kelly midway through the half helped turn the tide in Dublin's favour. A quintessential Eoghan O'Gara goal on 20 minutes confirmed Dublin's dominance as late points by Kevin McManamon, Darragh Stapleton and Michael Darragh Macauley pushed the Dubs four points clear (1-8 to 0-7) at the interval.
Macauley looked particularly lively after the break, collecting 1-2 in the third quarter to add to Stapleton's 33rd-minute goal as Dublin raced clear amidst a raft of substitutions and increasingly loose marking. To their credit, the Dubs Stars finished strongly with Quinn and Mark Vaughan to the fore but Vaughan's exceptionally taken 56th-minute goal proved in vain as late points from Alan Hubbard and Darragh Nelson saw the Dubs home with three points to spare.