Such a proposal will be tabled at the GAA’s Annual Congress in Newcastle, Co. Down this April. It comes in the wake of a deeply frustrating decade in which the capital side has been unable to add national honours to provincial success. The motion in question would see the four provincial champions meet with the winners progressing to the All-Ireland semi-finals and the defeated sides meeting two other counties who would emerge from the regular qualifiers.
“You have won three games at that stage and you have your form,” said Griffin. “The back door works well from the first and second round where you have only played a game and all of a sudden your season is over. By the time you get to your provincial final or quarter-final stage, you don’t need that many second chances. It’s the championship, that’s the beauty of it. It’s great to be playing in those knockout games. Your season is on the line.”
Dublin manager Pat Gilroy is currently operating with a heavily experimental panel for the O’Byrne Cup in an effort to bridge that gap between July’s ecstasies and August’s agonies. The St Vincent’s club man plotted a similar early-season course this time last year but defender Barry Cahill predicts that almost a third of the 2009 squad could eventually be cut adrift.
“Last year on the panel there was about 35 so you’re looking at maybe 10 lads at least not being around this year,” said the St Brigid’s player. “There’s always been competition for places within the Dublin squad but more so this year so all the lads will be looking over their shoulders. I think they’re aware that they really have to be performing in the O’Byrne Cup and National League. That’s healthy as you need people coming in to freshen things up.”
The wing-back has been one of his county’s stand-out performers in recent years but he isn’t blind to the remedial work required on a defence that has been crushed by Tyrone and Kerry in successive summers. Gilroy promoted the likes of Denis Bastick, Alan Hubbard, Peadar Andrews and Ger Brennan to key positions last year, with varying degrees of success. The full-back position, in particular, remains a puzzle that has yet to be solved.
“Defensively, we have to improve next year. It’s no secret that we’re conceding high scores, particularly in the knockout games, the All-Ireland quarter-final, semi-final. There’s a lot of good defenders after coming into the squad like Kevin Nolan, Cian O’Sullivan and the two O’Carroll brothers (Ross and Rory) so that should create healthy competition.”
Cahill won’t be one of those jostling for a shirt until March thanks to an abductor muscle injury and that means he also missed the once-off exhibition match between Dublin and his alma mater, St Declan’s College, last night.
“Unfortunately, I’m still a couple of weeks away from resuming full training. I’ve had a groin problem, an abductor problem for the last couple of years. The club scene went on until early December so I was only able to get it looked at in the middle of December. I’ve been put on a programme for eight weeks.”
Meanwhile, Griffin has been added to the Dublin panel to face Meath in Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup tie at Parnell Park, although Gilroy is continuing with a largely experimental selection.
Dublin Squad (v Meath): S Cluxton, C Reilly, A Hubbard, B Brogan, B Sexton, B Kelly, C McCormack, D Nelson, D Daly, D Henry, D Kelly, D Rock, D Murray, E Fennell, J Brogan, K Bonner, M McAuley, P Casey, P Conlon, P Griffin, R McConnell, S Murray, S O’Shaughnessy, T Diamond.