Lahiff putting his hand up as the Dubs' other man in the middle

The long-running search for a partner for Brian Fenton looks to have landed on an an answer and Michael Darragh Macauley is confident Lahiff will deliver
Lahiff putting his hand up as the Dubs' other man in the middle

Count me in: Tom Lahiff of Dublin during the Leinster Semi-Final against Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Pic:Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

With 12 starts and a substitute appearance from Dublin's 13 competitive games so far this year, Tom Lahiff is the team's most utilised player.

The St Judes man gave arguably his best display yet in the Leinster semi-final demolition of Meath too, meaning it's virtually certain he'll start Saturday's provincial final against Kildare.

In the long-running quest to find a partner for midfield colossus Brian Fenton, Dublin may finally have found their man.

"Tom has been playing excellent," said former Dublin midfielder and 2013 Footballer of the Year Michael Darragh Macauley at the launch of the Football for Unity 2022 festival. "He's probably underrated in terms of what he's doing for Dublin. He's very efficient at getting around the place.

"He sometimes mightn't get the headlines, if he's not putting over a couple of scores, but he's doing the job that's needed for Dublin and he's doing it very well at the moment. Tom is an excellent ally for Brian there at the moment. I think he'll be a big plus and we need to keep him fit for the summer."

Lahiff was a late comer to the inter-county scene, playing soccer for Bray Wanderers initially and only making his Championship debut for Dublin in his mid-20s in 2020.

He started against Westmeath and Laois that season but was dropped for the Leinster final and didn't actually feature again in their march to the six-in-a-row.

Lahiff only came on as a sub in last year's four Championship games so Saturday will be his first start in a Leinster final.

Another former Dublin midfielder, Ciaran Whelan, has claimed that Lahiff is the 'perfect example of a guy who is now feeling more comfortable in his environment' after a couple of seasons bedding in. Macauley agrees.

"He's a big unit, I was actually with him last Saturday, our clubs were playing against each other," said Macauley. "He's well able to get around, he's mobile and he's definitely able to put it up to any other lads in the midfield. It should be a good summer for him."

Whelan argued that it's high time Dublin nailed down a regular partner for Fenton though Macauley isn't so sure about that one.

"Whoever is playing the best and whoever fits the mould at the time is going to get that jersey," said the eight-time All-Ireland winner. "Everyone knows there are A versus B games the week before every Championship game and that decides a lot. How you perform in those 70 minutes will have a big say on where you're going to be next week, in or out, and that's the way it should be. I think in decades previously, your name probably decided how much you were going to play beforehand. That doesn't happen with the current Dublin squad which is a good thing."

Sharp eye: NEIC Community Sport & Wellness co-ordinator and former Dublin football Michael Darragh Macauley poses for a portrait at the Football for Unity festival launch at Richmond Park in Dublin. 
Sharp eye: NEIC Community Sport & Wellness co-ordinator and former Dublin football Michael Darragh Macauley poses for a portrait at the Football for Unity festival launch at Richmond Park in Dublin. 

Macauley retired after the 2020 Championship and took six months off to tour the world. Since returning, he reckons he's been to just about every Dublin game. He said he'd have 'put money on Dublin' beating Mayo in last year's All-Ireland semi-final but is probably glad now that he didn't.

"It wasn't to be but it's definitely put a fire in them now," he said. "As the complete outsider that I am now, that's what you would have thought. It's going to be interesting to see how they respond but they've been strong so far."

Strong in the Championship perhaps, hammering Wexford and Meath, but well off the pace in the Allianz League throughout spring, resulting in relegation. Boss Dessie Farrell has had to get the balance right between blooding new players - he has used 50 different players in total this year - and winning games.

Despite all of that transition, Macauley is adamant they can win another All-Ireland.

"Yeah of course they can win the All-Ireland, Dublin will be in the mix for sure," he maintained, playing up their performance against Meath. "That was one of the best offensive displays I've seen in a long time. The opposition was what it was that day, they weren't what we expected but Meath were also unlucky to get Dublin on a night when their scoring efficiency was off the charts. Having that clinical edge will be huge going down the stretch this year."

*The Football For Unity 2022 festival, hosted by Sport Against Racism Ireland and the Dublin North East Inner City initiative, takes place from June 6th to July 15th. For further information, or to register a team, log on to www.footballforunity.ie

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