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Saturday 7 December 2019

Gavin goes back to experienced heads on bench

Paddy Andrews was among the experienced players called from the bench against Mayo
Paddy Andrews was among the experienced players called from the bench against Mayo

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Jim Gavin's use of his substitutes in the All-Ireland semi-final was how the Dublin manager gravitated back towards his more experienced bench options.

Paddy Small had played some part in all seven of Dublin's previous Championship matches, scoring 0-5 from play in their last two.

The Ballymun man was second off the mark against Roscommon in Croke Park and his performance in Omagh was among the better ones on a weird occasion.

Pick of them all in Healy Park that day was Seán Bugler, the St Oliver Plunkett's/ER man who captained the Dublin Under-20s last year.

Both men were on the bench for the Mayo game, yet when the time came to replenishing the Dublin attack (albeit two of those substitutions came in the 70th minute) Gavin opted for Cormac Costello, Diarmuid Connolly and Paddy Andrews.

Appreciate

"We'd all like to be playing more, and any sort of minutes you get, you've got to appreciate that," says Andrews.

"Incredible players like Bernard (Brogan) or Kevin (McManamon) or (Eoghan) O'Gara or these guys who have been around as long as I have didn't get minutes in the semi-final, so all you can do is work as hard as you can."

There has been speculation this week that Brogan could make Gavin's matchday 26.

It would rank as quite the achievement by Brogan to force out one of the other attacking options, given the sum total of his time on the pitch this year is half an hour in that dead rubber in Omagh and eight minutes at the end of Dublin's final League game against Cavan in Breffni Park.

That Brogan is even in contention at 35 having grafted his way back from a second ACL tear a decade after his first is impressive in itself.

"You don't particularly enjoy training the whole time," admits Andrews, who had his own significant injury issues this year after he suffered a broken jaw against Tyrone in the League on March 16.

"You do it for the big games at Croke Park. When you've had a taste of that, and have been there in the big games against Kerry and Mayo over the years, and then all of a sudden you're not getting as many opportunities, of course that's hard, it's difficult."

Costello, who remains Dublin's top scorer in this year's Championship with 1-31 (17f, 4 '45), is a certainty to come in at some stage on Sunday.

Connolly, too, seems likely to play a part.

After that, Gavin's next attacking move, if required, is indecipherable.

"I think you understand, as well, that you use your experience and you've got to trust the management," says Andrews.

"They always have - always, always, since day one - put the team first. Guys are playing better or it's a better fit for the team, and you've just got to go with that.

"And whatever your role is, even if it's a little bit smaller than previous years, of course it's a challenge, but God, you'd be delighted to be part of it in any way you can."

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