Although there was positive news for Jim Gavin with confirmation veteran midfielder Denis Bastick has committed for the year, the absence of 26-year-old O’Carroll is a knock to the county’s chances of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Sam Maguire Cups since Kerry in 2007.
Gavin announced O’Carroll’s departure following yesterday’s draw with Wexford in their O’Byrne Cup opener in Enniscorthy’s St Patrick’s Park. Revealing he was party to the defender’s plans for some time, Gavin remarked: “Rory has decided to move away during the 2016 season. He’s moving to New Zealand so he won’t be a part of the Dublin squad for 2016.
“But we wish him the very best. We’ve always said to players that it’s important to get a life balance between family, their profession and their sport, which is GAA. He goes with the sun on his back and we look forward to the day when Rory puts back on a county jersey and a jersey with his club, Kilmacud Crokes. They’ll certainly miss him as well. It’s not just us.”
Gavin played down the impact O’Carroll’s absence will have on the team’s fortunes.
“I think in the past it was a more pivotal position,” he said of the full-back berth. “But the way the game is evolving, I think we’ve got good cover. A player like Rory you want to have around, but we’ve got a big squad.
To Bastick’s news, Gavin reacted: “It’s a very dynamic time in his life but has still committed to Dublin GAA once again. We are just delighted to have his experience not only on the field but off it as well. He’s just got such a big presence and he’s achieved so much in the game.”
Gavin operated a squad number policy for the game and indicated he will continue it for the remainder of the competition — their next game coming against Carlow IT in Parnell Park on Wednesday — and possibly beyond.
“Yeah, I’m not going to say it is the future but it is something you would look at particularly at this stage of the season when you don’t know who is fit to play and how they got over the Christmas break.
“There were a few tired bodies and we will probably need to manage the players when they turn up on Wednesday night with knocks and niggles from today. I think it has merit. For the supporters, it might make things a little clearer because it’s not just about the game-day panel any more as it was in the 80s and even 90s and it’s something we might look at in the future.”
Having only returned to camp on Saturday, an experimental Dublin team recovered well after conceding two first-half goals from Ben Brosnan and Adrian Flynn to salvage a draw. They were eight points in arrears before they went in seven behind, 0-4 to 2-5.
Wexford managed just one second-half point as Dublin kicked into gear. Dean Rock contributed six points and kicked two equalising points, the first coming just before substitute PJ Banville had restored Wexford’s lead in the 67th minute. Rock, though, split the posts once more before the end to ensure Dublin headed home with a result.
Half-time subs James McCarthy and Philly McMahon were key to Dublin’s revival. McMahon had put in two ferocious challenges — the second forcing Kieran Butler to leave the field — before he was black carded for a deliberate hand-trip. Nicky Devereux was forced to leave the field having sustained cramp in the first half.
Wexford boss David Power was delighted to take something from the game: “I know Dublin are only back training or whatever but it’s a great, positive start for us. We dropped four or five balls into the keeper’s hands in the second half. That was just pure tiredness.”
B Brosnan, A Flynn (1-0 pen) (1-1 each); K O’Grady, R Vallejo, K Rowe, PJ Banville (0-1 each).
D Rock (0-6, 2 frees); J Whelan, C Reddan, P Andrews, C O’Callaghan, C Costello, S Carthy (0-1 each).
A Masterson; J O’Connor, N Rossiter, R Vallejo; B Malone, S Donohue, K Butler; G Malone, C Kehoe; K O’Grady, A Flynn, N Hughes; K Rowe, J Carty, B Brosnan.
T Rossiter for G Malone (black, 15); PJ Banville for K Butler (inj 42); S Ryan for K Rowe (45); S Doyle for J O’Connor (55), P O’Connor for N Hughes (68).
M Savage; E Culligan, J Curley, C Mullaly; N Devereux, J Small, M Concarr; D Bastick, C Reddin; J Whelan, D Rock, S Carthy (St Vincent’s); C Costello, P Andrews, C O’Callaghan.
G Hannigan for N Devereux (inj, 11); J McCarthy for D Bastick, P McMahon for M Concarr (both h-t); N Scully for E Culligan (47); A Caffrey for P McMahon (black, 54); N Walsh for C O’Callaghan (56); M Mac Donncha for J Whelan (blood, 64 to f-t).
J Hickey (Carlow).