‘Boy wonder’ Con O’Callaghan could be Dublin’s trump card

Dessie Farrell sold a neat dummy as a Dublin footballer and has carried an element of that same chicanery with him into management.

Con O'Callaghan hit Longford for 2-5 just days after helping Cuala to AIB All-Ireland club hurling success at Croke Park. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach

Three times so far in this season’s EirGrid U-21 football championship the Dublin manager has named an ‘official’ pre-match lineup and three times he has altered it wildly on match day.

The Dubs became the first Leinster team to claim four U-21 titles on the trot by beating Westmeath, Longford and Offaly last month.

Yet in each game not a single line of the team corresponded to the published selection with Farrell making at least three personnel changes for each match and wholesale positional switches.

With all of the above in mind, you’ll excuse us for not taking the latest ‘official’ lineup as gospel, even if it is the same group of players that lined out against Offaly and Longford.

Declan Bonner, whose Donegal side face Dublin at Kingspan Breffni Park today, has surely done his homework and checked out if, in particular, Ballyboden St Enda’s duo Colm Basquel and Shane Clayton will play or not.

Both players were on the Dublin senior panel that won the All-Ireland last October though missed the win 2-14 to 0-8 defeat of Offaly with injuries.

The pair claimed AIB All-Ireland club titles last year, with Basquel shooting 1-1 in the final, weeks after winning a Sigerson medal, and are terrific talents.

Corner-back Clayton was actually named to play against Offaly but was withdrawn and Basquel, among the substitutes, was assigned Clayton’s number four jersey but didn’t feature.

Basquel did start for Dublin against Tyrone in the Allianz league though has only featured briefly in the U-21 campaign as a sub against Westmeath.

Aaron Byrne, the Leinster U-21 Player of the Year, stepped up with two goals against Westmeath and four crucial points in the first-half of the Offaly game.

Boy wonder Con O’Callaghan continues to be Farrell’s trump card though, hitting Longford for 2-5 just days after helping Cuala to AIB All-Ireland club hurling success at Croke Park. He was subdued in the final but still scored four points.

Donegal, who claimed their first Ulster title since 2010 with a big win over Derry last Monday, have considerably more senior experience.

Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Michael Carroll and Jason McGee were virtual ever presents in Donegal’s Allianz league side while Michael Langan started against Kerry and Mayo.

They don’t have the profile of Dublin but are working off the same group of talented players that reached the 2014 All-Ireland minor final and that were cleverly blooded in this year’s McKenna Cup.

A cracking encounter at the venue where Dublin won the 2010 All-Ireland U-21 final by beating, of course, Donegal, awaits.

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