It's great that Jim kept his faith - Small
Kickhams man focused only on remainder of summer after injury and suspension woes
It's been a fitful summer for John Small.
Yet his appearance in Jim Gavin's starting 15 for what was easily their most stringent test of the Championship so far in Omagh last Saturday clearly bodes well for him in whatever's left of it.
An injury precluded the Ballymun Kickhams defender from any pronounced involvement early in Dublin's Leinster campaign and he's unlikely to recall his provincial final experience fondly.
Small only came on as a 52nd minute sub yet he was sent off just five minutes later after catching Laois forward Evan O'Carroll in the face.
The Ballymun clubman received a straight red card from Barry Cassidy, who reported the player for striking with the hand.
"I just tried to tackle the ball," explained Small yesterday in Parnell Park when he appeared at an event to publicise an initiative whereby the logo of children's charity Aoibheann's Pink Tie will replace sponsors AIG on the front of the Dublin jersey for upcoming football, ladies football and camogie fixtures, including the Dublin senior footballer's clash with Roscommon on August 5.
"And it was a bit unfortunate the way it transpired.
"But," Small shrugged, "the referees are trying to do their best."
Speaking after that Leinster final, Jim Gavin expressed his surprise at Cassidy's decision but cut a more frustrated figure subsequently after Dublin's victory over Donegal, for which Small was suspended, after the CHC upheld the ban.
The way Gavin saw it: "we gave conclusive evidence that the ball was struck first and it was just an accidental hit".
It was the second time Dublin have taken a case to the CHC this year and the second time they have failed to exonerate a player after Mick Fitzsimons's one-match ban for his sending off in a League game in Castlebar in March was upheld, a decision Gavin labelled "bizarre," at the time.
"Was I surprised?" Small considered yesterday.
"Well it was just the decision taken on the day.
"I wasn't going in expecting either way. Just they decided that I didn't (get off) so we just took it on the chin and that was it."
It means that a repeat offence would see Small banned for two matches at a time of the season when such a suspension could see him miss the rest of the Championship.
Clearly though, Gavin had as much faith in Small's discipline as he had in his ability to man-mark Peter Harte when he picked him for what was a first Championship start this summer in Omagh last Saturday.
"I had a bit of an injury earlier on and was obviously suspended then for the Donegal game, so it was great that I got put back in," Small observed.
"It's great that the management have the trust to put me in and trust that I can do my job for the team, and I'm delighted that they did that. It was great to get the opportunity to play.
"There's great competition all over the pitch and everyone is fighting for their position and fighting for a jersey."
It sets Dublin up for an anticlimactic fixture with Roscommon on Sunday week, a match where neither team can improve or worsen their position, regardless of the result.
At a time when the wisdom of using Croke Park for matches unlikely to even half fill the stadium is being questioned as much as Dublin's use of the stadium for their designated home 'Super 8' fixture, this one is unlikely to further the arguments in favour of the status quo.
"Roscommon pose a very different threat than Tyrone do, and they are a different animal," observed Small, unconcerned about the deadness of the rubber.
"Everyone is fighting for a position, everyone wants their opportunity to represent the group and the fact that we have another game is great.
"We are just totally focussed on Roscommon."
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