Dublin boss Gilroy turns to new blood for Royals battle

IT WAS impossible to avoid that end-of-term feeling around the DCU campus yesterday where the student body was conspicuous by its absence and Pat Gilroy named his first championship side.

It wasn’t those names on the teamsheet caught the eye so much as those nowhere to be seen. No Ciaran Whelan. No Shane Ryan. No Bryan Cullen and no Jason Sherlock.

It’s Dublin, Jim, but not as we know it.

“Guys like that never want to be left out of a team but that’s part of your job, to manage those situations,” said Gilroy. “Within the squad everybody has been very positive around the whole thing.

“There’s been no-one moaning or bowing their heads and guys have just been getting on with things. I have to say all those senior guys who aren’t playing have been just totally positive and encouraging the guys playing.”

Only seven of the side that started Dublin’s last championship encounter, against Tyrone last August, do likewise against Meath this Sunday. Only Stephen Cluxton and David Henry will line out in the same positions.

Three men will make championship debuts. Denis Bastick has been handed the troublesome number three jersey, Alan Hubbard will hug his left shoulder and Mark Davoren’s penchant for goals sees him named at full-forward.

The youthful tinge to the team runs deeper still. Ger Brennan has only two minutes of championship football to his credit, Paul Flynn has started just once and Paddy Andrew made his debut last summer.

Even Ross McConnell, who has earned eight championship chits, will be starting at midfield for the first time. This then is a change of direction after years of failing to make the transition from August through to September.

Last year’s evisceration by Tyrone in the quarter-finals was the death knell for that Dublin team, as well as the management, although Gilroy preferred to tiptoe around any talk of a ‘new wave’.

“If you look at the team that’s there, most of those guys were involved last year in the squad. Nearly everybody who played against Tyrone is involved in the panel so I don’t think it was a conscious effort (to change). This team has been close over the last few years and we did want to find players to put pressure on guys. I wouldn’t say it was a conscious effort to change people but there’s great competition. That was a conscious effort.”

Whelan’s absence is, arguably, the most significant. A recent calf injury curtailed his preparations and chances of making the first 15, but a half-fit Whelan would have been an automatic choice in the past.

Others, like Dermot Connolly, Pat Burke and Tomas Quinn, have been similarly hampered by knocks but the man with the most serious problem is Mark Vaughan whose ongoing back injury is causing severe pain.

“He was only doing half training sessions and he kept on breaking down when we were training. So we sent him off and he’s had a number of scans and X-rays and hopefully they have a solution.”

No doubt Eamon O’Brien and his charges will scan through the Dublin line-out with interest but Meath are under the microscope almost as much as their traditional rivals after an indifferent league campaign.

Said Gilroy: “Meath are always a serious danger. They raise their game to a much higher level and it can be a real good barometer, for me, how they perform against Dublin.

“If they perform well, they tend to have a good year. If they don’t, then they might struggle. We’d be very respectful of Meath, they have very good players. They were in an All-Ireland semi-final two years ago.”

DUBLIN (SF v Meath): S. Cluxton, D. Henry, D. Bastic, A. Hubbard; P. Griffen, G. Brennan, B. Cahill; R. McConnell, D. McGee; P. Flynn, P. Andrews, B. Brogan; C. Keaney, M. Davoren, A. Brogan.

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