THOUGHTS of last August’s All-Ireland quarter-final will inevitably spring to mind when Kerry and Dublin meet on Sunday, but Pat Gilroy is, understandably, concentrating on the season to come rather than the last.
Lest we forget, Dublin entered that championship fixture as strong favourites against a Kerry side that had endured a fitful summer and yet finished on the wrong end of a 17-point deficit.
“What happened last August is history,” was the Dublin manager’s predictable take on that. “It’s now 2010 and it’s all about what we do this year. The same as last year, we want to go out and play well in every game.
“The fact this is Kerry, whatever happens on Sunday, doesn’t make up for last August. If we go out and win or lose by a point, it doesn’t bear any relation to what happened last year. That stays as is.”
That Sunday will be a whole new ball game will be glaringly obvious after the most cursory of glances at the respective team-sheets as both managers will be operating minus a coterie of household names.
Kerry’s list of absentees, which has been padded out due to retirements, work and college commitments, injuries and extended winter breaks, would actually roll over most inter-county sides. Dublin, for their part, will have to seek a first win in the Kingdom in 18 years without the likes of Alan Brogan, Barry Cahill, Conal Keaney, Darren Magee, Tomás Quinn, Ger Brennan and Denis Bastic.
In all, at least eight of Kerry’s starters from last year’s championship quarter-final will be unavailable to Jack O’Connor on Sunday, while Gilroy, yesterday named a line-up with just five survivors from that same tie.
The handful of remaining ‘regulars’ has been dotted around the pitch, like buoys in a stormy sea in the hope that they can help the newcomers to swim rather than sink. Gilroy embarked on a similar path last year before, for one reason or another, finding himself fielding many of the same players come championship but he will hope for a greater bounty with this latest trawl.
“You can see by the injury list that we’ve been forced to play a lot of new people here. We didn’t have options but, in saying that, a lot of these guys were probably the best players in the club championship.
“Ross and Rory O’Carroll, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Cian O’Sullivan even Paul (Griffin) – that defence was probably the strongest six in the (Dublin) championship. Having said that, the guys in the subs are all playing very well as well.
“So, we have strong options,” he stressed. “It was a very hard team to pick because we haven’t had a lot of game time or matches with this group because everyone was off with colleges.”
Gilroy may insist he has simply played the hand with which he is dealt but it is, in fact, a bold lineout as the safer option would have been to include Bernard Brogan, Bryan Cullen, Paul Casey and Kevin Bonner rather than leave them on the bench as he has done.
Rory O’Carroll will be the latest in a long line to make a fist of the full-back role in what is a completely new back three, while erstwhile defenders, David Henry and Alan Hubbard, find themselves stationed up front.
Yet again, much of the attention will centre on the midfield area where Eamon Fennell continues to partner Ross McConnell despite the former’s ongoing and fruitless attempt to switch clubs. His current club, O’Toole’s, have refused his request to move to St Vincent’s and, with the county board upholding that decision, the player will now be expected take his case to the Disputes Resolution Authority.
O’Toole’s have confirmed they have no objection to his continued presence on the inter-county panel although it remains an unwanted distraction for player and county alike.
“I’m sure it probably is but it doesn’t have an effect on what he’s doing with us,” said Gilroy. “It hasn’t effected his playing. He’s been fine. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen with him. It’s out of our hands. We’ll just have to let the process take place and see what happens at the end of those. We’re going to make guys available to play with their clubs. The club leagues don’t start for four or five weeks.
“If he wasn’t available to us, it would be frustrating but there’s no issue there at the moment.”
Dublin (SF v Kerry): S Cluxton; Ross O’Carroll, Rory O’Carroll, P McMahon; P Griffin, C O’Sullivan, J McCarthy; E Fennell, R McConnell; A Hubbard, M McAuley, P Flynn; D Henry, B Kelly, K McManamon.
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