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Magee's message for Gavin on O'Carroll - 'I'd call him'

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RETURN: Rory O’Carroll in action for Crokes. Photo: SPORTSFILE

RETURN: Rory O’Carroll in action for Crokes. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

RETURN: Rory O’Carroll in action for Crokes. Photo: SPORTSFILE

There's a three-time All-Ireland winner back in town, and back playing ball.

But will Dublin come calling for Rory O'Carroll? Johnny Magee has no doubt that it's a phone call worth making.

"Look, if I was in Jim Gavin's shoes and I'm looking at it, why wouldn't I? I'd call him," says the joint manager of Kilmacud Crokes, whose decision to parachute O'Carroll straight back into his old full-back domain for last Saturday's Dublin SFC opener against Ballymun Kickhams helped to deliver a winning start to their title defence.

"There's time on his side," Magee expands. "You're talking May, June, July is when the Super 8s kick in… ten weeks of good work and then you'd like to think, with Dublin going for the five-in-a-row, you've ample enough time for him to sharpen up and be another option.

"It's not a bad call to have a fella who's a previous All-Ireland medal winner and All Star in the full-back position. It will only add to competition within the group, and his experience will be a benefit - as it has been a benefit to us since he's back."

A full decade has passed since Magee skippered Crokes to the 2009 All-Ireland club title, with O'Carroll already a full-back mainstay at just 19.

But a more relevant time gap is the three-and-a-half years that have elapsed since O'Carroll won his third Celtic Cross, against Kerry in 2015. There followed a second All Star before the player emigrated to New Zealand in 2016.

He returned home at the start of March and quickly reimmersed himself in Kilmacud. Yet, prior to their round-robin opener against Ballymun, he had only played two games - a challenge against Skerries Harps and a league fixture, also against Ballymun.

So, for Magee and fellow boss Robbie Brennan, to start him at the weekend was "a big call from our point of view. But the fact that he came back in such good shape, he was training very well - and with the injuries to Liam Flatman and to Cian O'Sullivan, we just felt that bit of experience was required against Ballymun. It was a big call but I think it paid off… well, it did," he immediately clarifies.

"He came through; was very composed when we needed to get kickouts and stuff like that."

While there were a few unsurprising hints of rustiness, the former Dublin defender viewed his overall performance as "very positive. There's not too many players I would know who've been away from the game for three, nearly four years... to conduct himself the way he did on Saturday is a testament to Rory and the footballer that he is."

Recall

Last question pertains to the timing of a potential recall, given some of Dublin's full-back travails during the spring.

"They were kind of got at during the league and I'm sure the lads weren't too happy," says Magee. "So, there's room for improvement but, you know, it was bandied about before when Rory went - how could Dublin handle Rory's loss?

"And, in fairness, different lads stepped up; Jonny Cooper, Philly (McMahon) did a fantastic job. So, there's still a lot of good footballers out there. I'd say a lot of the lads wouldn't be happy with some of the league performances… but are they minding themselves and, look, making sure that they're right for the five-in-a-row?"

Time will answer that riddle, and Rory's potential role in it.