On Wednesday night I took out a pen and paper and wrote down an alternative Dublin team to the one that is selected for tomorrow in Tullamore.
All but two of the 15 names played for me but, aside from obvious accusations of loyalty to former warriors, I liked the look of the team.
Alan Nolan; Shane Durkin, Peter Kelly, Paul Schutte; Mikey Carton, Joey Boland, Simon Lambert; Johnny McCaffrey, Alan McCrabbe; Conal Keaney, Colm Cronin, Sean Treacy; Chris Bennett, Mark Schutte, Paul Ryan.
It was only afterwards that I realised I’d forgotten about Danny Sutcliffe, who played for the New York footballers against Sligo a couple of weeks ago.
Danny would be some impact sub to have in a game of this magnitude.
I’d almost fancy that team to give Galway a better rattle than the Dublin team picked tomorrow.
Look, there is certainly no way I would be picking some of that alternative team, a couple would probably even be retired at this stage.
But they are all still playing club hurling, which makes them viable options. I may not have Mikey and Joey still in the half-back line but I’d certainly have Peter Kelly, Shane Durkin and Paul Schutte in the defence.
The only one who actually isn’t playing club hurling at the moment is Peter Kelly, because he pulled a hamstring recently after making a comeback from a more serious injury.
I appreciate that the injury was a reason for Peter not being on the panel but I’d still have done everything to try and get him right. I’d send him all over Europe if I had to. I’m sure Eamonn O’Reilly, the physio, would send him anywhere in the world to get him back right. That’s how highly I think of PK.
Keaney may be past his sell-by date but he’d still do a job for you. I wouldn’t have got rid of Johnny McCaffrey. I think it’s a mortal sin that Colm Cronin isn’t playing. I was talking to a diehard Cuala fan recently and he said that Cronin was — hands down — Cuala’s best player throughout their successful All-Ireland club run. Cronin may not be a slick, classy player but he’s a Dog of War. And they are the type of guys you need for a team of Galway Man Mountains built for war.
Fair enough, Sean Treacy is gone travelling but I don’t understand why Mark Schutte, Paul Ryan and Chris Bennett are still not around. Again, I’m not saying I would select them all but I’d definitely be picking three of those names in the forwards.
Some of those guys were dropped. A few walked. A few of those players were finished. They had no more to offer. Their legs were gone. Some of the younger lads like Treacy and Bennett will be back in the future but I think Dublin could still do with the experience of some of those guys who got the bullet.
Players like Chris Crummey, Shane Barrett, and Eoghan O’Donnell have developed into real leaders on this team now. Maybe they wouldn’t have if a lot of the older lads were still around but I feel they would be even better players, and would develop more, if you had some of those older heads somewhere in the mix.
Ger Cunningham has done some brilliant work in how he has tilled the ground for the future. The next manager will really benefit in time from that investment in youth. Then again, maybe the county board will give Ger another two years to drive the project forward. Ger is his own man. He has done this his own way but in my opinion he could have done it differently. He could have built his own team by managing the transition better, by using some of that experience more rather than completely getting rid of it.
When Ger took over from me at the end of 2014, I thought it was the perfect appointment for Dublin. But for some reason, it just doesn’t seem to have worked out. I understand that Ger is building a new team but why take out the wrecking ball and swing it so wildly in year three of a three-year term?
Looking at the minors and U21s coming through, I felt there was a lot of natural stick-men in that group. They are the future but can you just imagine how much more those guys would develop if they were surrounded by the Schutte, Sutcliffe, Colm Cronin, Peter Kelly, Shane Durkin, a leader of men like Johnny McCaffrey?
I only see one result in Tullamore tomorrow but Galway still have to prove that they can drive it on now from the league final. They also have to guard against the complacency from how much they’ve been talked up since, and how much Dublin have been talked down.
There are still questions around Galway’s league win, and the run into it. Waterford’s second team should have beaten them in the quarter-final, and Waterford clearly didn’t want to win that game. Limerick were very flat in the semi-final. After last Sunday, how true was Tipperary’s form in the final?
Clare hammered Galway in a recent challenge in Ennis. I know challenge matches are not an accurate barometer but that result may have done Galway no harm in how it will have grounded them after the hype after the league final. Dublin have a decent history with Galway too but Galway have too much experience now to be caught in any kind of trap here.
Their defence is way more settled. Daithí Burke would still probably prefer to be at wing-back or centre-back but he gives the team huge stability at number 3. Gearóid McInerney has been excellent at number 6 but Niall McMorrow will present him with a different test now in how he drifts. I’m sure McInerney will hold his position and that McMorrow will be swallowed up by one of the extra bodies Galway flood into that sector.
Galway know that this is their time. If this generation— Joe Canning, David Burke, Johnny Coen, all these guys that have played in two All-Ireland finals — can’t get it done, when will Galway’s chance come again? There is a long way to go yet but a statement needs to be made on the first step of that road tomorrow. And I fully expect it will be.
lsewhere, I got a fit of laughing when I saw that some fella in one of the Midland papers said during the week that if Offaly couldn’t beat Westmeath, it was all the same. Where do these fellas come up with this stuff? Does he realise that Westmeath beat Offaly last year? Is he a Westmeath fella trying to set Offaly up?
There’s every chance that Westmeath will win again. Where are Offaly? They probably don’t even know themselves.
Laois is a slight banana skin for Wexford tomorrow but Wexford have too much work deposited in the bank to get caught.
They were out on a foreign training camp recently, which is often better than five weeks training. Davy Fitz was stuck in the middle of it, ban or no ban. He will have made sure that nothing gets in the way of victory tomorrow.
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