Dubs face old foes for final spot
AS Dublin begin the quest for a historic ‘drive for five’, there is the small matter of the O’byrne Cup to be considered and this Saturday the Metropolitans host neighbours Meath in a semi-final clash at Parnell Park (throw-in 7pm).
A five-point extra-time win over Kildare in 2015 by a team inspired by Dean Rock and Kevin Mcmanamon would see Dublin capture the first of four titles that season, but the clean sweep has eluded Jim Gavin’s men since.
In recent years Gavin, perhaps in a bid to keep his squad fresh, has taken a back seat in this competition and handed over the reins to his 1995 All-ireland playing colleague and current Dublin selector Paul Clarke.
The Whitehall Colmcille man has had mixed success in the competition. In his first year in charge, 2017, they triumphed over Louth, with St Maur’s man Ciaran Reddin lifting the trophy following a nine-point win in the final.
The defence of their title came a cropper last year, though, when Dublin, needing to win by 17 points to progress to the last four, suffered a late ambush against Wexford in Enniscorthy. That brought an early end to a campaign which had been lightened up by some terrific shooting from Clann Mhuire forward Adam Rogers.
The omens for this year’s campaign look good and with Fingal quartet Cormac Howley (Round Towers Lusk), Oisin Lynch (Fingallians), Jack Hazley (St Sylvester’s) and Stephen Smith of Skerries Harps in the shake-up, Dublin would seem to have a lot of options up front.
All four featured in last month’s Dub Stars challenge in Naomh Barrog which saw Lynch register 2-3 out of Dublin’s 3-19 tally.
Possibly of more interest is how Dublin (who received a bye into the semi-finals) will fare with the new rules which, should they get the green light at a Central Council meeting on January 19th, will be in place for the National League campaign.
The most contentious rule change has been the reduction in the number of hand-passes allowed and it may the one that many are keen to kick into touch.
While already in operation for almost a month, it is a rule that continues to confuse teams, with Meath having a goal disallowed against Wexford on Saturday after exceeding the number of passes allowed.
However, a three-pointer from Sean Tobin would eventually see Meath pull away in the second half to prevail by a seven-point margin.
For Meath boss Andy Mcentee, this will be his second season in charge and he is joined on the line by Colm Nally who is no stranger to north County Dublin, having spend a few seasons in charge of Fingal Ravens.
While Dublin come into the competition a bit wet behind the ears, the home side should be expected to progress to the decider which takes place a week later.
Mick Bohan’s Dublin Ladies team take on their Dubstars counterparts at DCU this Sunday at 1.30pm, with the preceding Junior clash beginning at 11.30am.