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O’Sullivan gets call for defence

CONSIDERING the influence he wielded over Dublin's most recent victory from the bench, the inclusion of Michael Darragh Macauley in the Dublin team from the start for Sunday's Croke Park shoot-out with Meath hardly constitutes a surprise yet his on-paper posting certainly does.

The All Star midfield was widely expected to put pressure on the 2012 Championship status quo of Denis Bastick and Eamon Fennell but Diarmuid Connolly's suspension has opened up a gap elsewhere in the team.

Macauley will, no doubt, spend more time in the midfield engine room than at full-forward, leaving Dublin a man shy in the scoring department and putting more pressure on the likes of Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan, who was decidedly out-of-sorts in the Wexford win.

The inclusion of Macauley, Eamon Fennell and Denis Bastick could, however, be designed to let the latter shadow Meath's flying in-form wing-forward, Graham Reilly.

Reilly has been rejuvenated all through 2012 and despite concerted efforts on the part of Kildare to halt his dashes at source, he still managed to plunder three points from play.

Bastick performed a similar role against Seán Cavanagh in last year's All-Ireland series and could be selected in a man-marking capacity again this Sunday.

“He (Macauley) was very close to starting,” said Gilroy after the Wexford win, before giving a vote of confidence to both Fennell and Bastick as well. “But in fairness to the two lads that started we had a great platform in the middle of the field, we won an awful lot of their kickouts in the first half but we just weren't getting much drive from there - Michael gives you that.”

Cian O'Sullivan was also tipped to start across any one of a number of the defensive position after he came on in the first half of the Wexford victory, although the absence of Ger Brennan - who he replaced in that match - still constitutes something of a surprise.

“We felt we weren't doing well enough around that area, we were losing ball and we thought Cian could tighten things up there and he did. We didn't seem as exposed with Cian there,” Gilroy explained.

O'Sullivan earned an All Star nomination last year on the strength of just three performances after coming into the Dublin team for the All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Tyrone.

Then, he took a spot at corner-back but perhaps mindful of the presence of pacey rookies Damien Carroll and Alan Forde in the Meath half-forward line, Gilroy has plumped for O'Sullivan's speed over Brennan’s experience for Sunday.

O’Sullivan has suffered with hamstring problems for several seasons. In 2010, he started all seven of Dublin’s league games but this year he managed just three after missing the 2011 campaign entirely and management have been cautious about how and when to play the Kilmacud man. “It’s just something I have to learn to live with and manage as best I can, “ he said. “There is no real cure, you just have to stay ahead of it with prehab.”