Dublin U21 footballer Andy Foley says having no senior players in their ranks has been viewed as a positive in the build up to tomorrow’s EirGrid Leinster U21 football final with Kildare.
Foley is one of the survivors from last year’s team — when there were some of the U21 side in Jim Gavin’s ranks - but this time around, he feels a sole focus on the underage set-up has been a huge benefit.
“It’s an advantage,” said Foley. “We have more lads around since the beginning of the year. It’s a tighter group of lads. A tighter, closer group of people.”
The Clontarf man is also glad manager Dessie Farrell has remained at the helm.
“I’m thankful the management stayed around. I learned a lot from them. I was hoping they would remain. Dessie is brilliant. Every little detail — he thinks of everything. He’s brought each player on a lot, as a team and individually.
“Having a new team and changing management, it’s not that you have to prove yourself again but it’s a different set-up.”
Foley was part of a Dublin minor team in 2013 that found the going tough from the start and says having so much raw talent went against them.
“It was a young team,” he recalls. “Maybe so young the age gap was just completely different. But it was definitely a learning curve for me. That was my first experience playing minor. And I think I grew a lot from there. As did everyone else.”
They have a real chance to make a mark at U21 level now. Beating Kildare in tomorrow’s provincial decider would be a huge step in the right direction. With the underage set-up being so strong in the capital, however, the Dubs will be many people’s fancies and it’s a step their supporters expect them to take.
Gaelic football and hurling are hugely prominent in most areas of Dublin these days and coming from Clontarf, Foley has seen the inclusive development work that has been ongoing the past decade.
“Looking up, you have something to aim for. A goal. And that’s been my goal for the last few years, to play for Dublin,” he admits.
“The competition is to get up there (senior level) and have an opportunity to play. To have a chance of a trial would be fantastic.
“And it would be great to know that, for any players coming up, that there’s something to aim for.”
Like his friend and clubmate Jack McCaffrey?
“It was strange to me thinking that someone I know locally was a hero.
“But I always did look up to him. And still do. This year was the first year I played with him with Clontarf. It was brilliant.
“He off now soon but it’s good to travel and enjoy yourself.”
For Foley that’s down the line. Right now the goals are pretty short term. Winning tomorrow would be a good start.