Back in mid-spring, canny punters felt they’d pulled off a rare coup by tying bookmakers to 66/1 odds on Dublin’s James McCarthy being named Footballer of the Year.
By the end of the Allianz League, those odds had more than halved as his form spiked, though as recently as yesterday had gone back out to mid-60s, a clear response to the injury which threatens to derail the defender’s season.
The experienced wing-back sat out last weekend’s Leinster final win over Westmeath with, according to manager Jim Gavin, a minor quad problem.
Reports since suggest that McCarthy has in fact damaged medial knee ligaments and could miss the rest of July and August.
With Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey on indefinite breaks from the game, Dublin could end up playing the rest of the Championship with half of last year’s All-Ireland winning defensive sextet.
Dublin attacker Paddy Andrews insists that McCarthy will be back for the All-Ireland quarter-finals but, either way, claimed that their squad is strong enough to cope with losing players to injury.
“It’s no secret over the last number of years that our squad has been really central to our success,” said Andrews. “I just don’t think you can have success with 15 players with the way the modern game is played, especially if you are looking to win national leagues and Leinster and All-Ireland championships. It’s a nine or a 10-month season so it’s inevitable guys are going to get injured. Guys will lose form, pick up knocks, and things like that.
“James picks up a knock last week and Eric Lowndes steps in. That’s the challenge for the guys that are there, we just need to just keep pushing each other on.
“And you can be guaranteed that between now and the end of the season, there will be more knocks. You just have to be ready for it and we’re fortunate that all of our guys buy into that.
“Look, James is a real quality player. The form he has been in throughout this season has been especially good, and even last season, so he is a real leader for us, a key player. It’s great that the injury is only a bit of a bang and we are hopeful he will be back for the next day in a couple of weeks’ time.
“It wasn’t as bad as was initially feared, or anything like that, which was great because having lost Jack and Rory, you don’t want to lose any more quality players.”
Another challenge for Dublin is the increasing cynical attention being paid to Diarmuid Connolly, their star forward.
Connolly was cautioned for responding to a tap on the head from Westmeath’s James Dolan last weekend with a drag down to the ground.
Connolly was involved in a similar incident with Mayo’s Lee Keegan last August though Andrews said the reality is that goading talented forwards is nothing new.
“The reason they’re doing it is to try and look for a reaction,” said Andrews. “They’re trying to put you off your game, to frustrate you. You can’t let that happen. As a forward, you know what’s expected of you and these things have been happening in the game for years. It’s not new.
“It didn’t just happen for the first time ever on Sunday, that this is some kind of revelation. It’s happening for years. The best guys get on with it. That’s the challenge for us. It doesn’t bother us in the slightest.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved