Dublin’s fringe spot on as they make fi­nal cut

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Gaelic Games -

If Dublin make his­tory as five-in-a-row All-Ire­land win­ners this year, Paul Clarke prob­a­bly won’t be the first per­son Stephen Clux­ton thanks in his vic­tory speech.

Yet the for­mer Dublin for­ward is an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant fig­ure in Jim Gavin’s man­age­ment team and con­tin­ues to ful­fil a very im­por­tant func­tion each Jan­uary.

For the third sea­son run­ning, he’s manag­ing Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup, se­lect­ing from a de­vel­op­ment squad of rookie and fringe tal­ents.

Clarke’s group won the com­pe­ti­tion in 2017, mem­o­rably putting Niall Scully on the road to se­nior star­dom.

Last year, it was Brian Howard t hat emerged from Clarke’s Jan­uary pack to set the sea­son alight and the Ra­heny man ended the year as an All Star.

The grade

So when Dublin wrap up their lat­est O’Byrne Cup cam­paign next Fri­day evening after fac­ing West­meath in the fi­nal, Gavin will be more than a lit­tle in­ter­ested to learn which play­ers Clarke be­lieves might make the grade.

Per­haps one of them will be Ryan Basquel, who scored four points in Satur­day’s semi-fi­nal win over old ri­vals Meath, a game that was de­cided by a novel penalty shootout.

“Ev­ery one of that squad put in a hard shift last week, they were train­ing well,” said Clarke, just back from the of­fi­cial team hol­i­day on Fri­day.

“They played very well as a unit. You could look at them in- di­vid­u­ally but the whole prin­ci­ple is to go out and give it 100 per cent, give loads of hard work, loads of ef­fort, loads of en­thu­si­asm and they all did that. They gave that in bucket loads.

“We’ll look for­ward to next week­end. We’ll go and mend a few wounds and then see how guys feel be­cause there’s some Siger­son games next Fri­day and we’ll have to see who is avail­able to us.

Same squad

“It will prob­a­bly be down to Jim Gavin but I think we’ll be work­ing with the same squad we have now for the fi­nal.”

Meath led 1-4 to 0-2 early on after Gra­ham Reilly’s goal but were pegged back to level terms at 1-7 a piece at half-time.

They were tied five more times in the sec­ond half be­fore Conor McHugh fisted Dublin ahead in the 74th minute.

Meath re­fused to die and Donal Keogan drew the foul that Mickey New­man con­verted to force the penalty drama.

That was an anti-cli­max as Aaron Byrne and McHugh, the 2017 and 2014 All-Ire­land un­der-21 player of the year win­ners, slot­ted their kicks along with Oisín Lynch while Meath wasted three of their four.

“I wouldn’t like a Cham­pi­onship game to be de­cided like that,” said Meath man­ager Andy McEn­tee. “I think both teams would have got value out of an­other 20 min­utes.”

DUBLIN: ABun­yan; NDo­ran, SMcMa­hon(0-1), CSmith; CO’Con­nor, CMul­lally, RMcDaid (1-0); DGavin, CHow­ley; RBasquel (0-4), AByrne (0-1), SBu­gler (0-1); SSmith(0-2, two frees), CPear­son, OLynch(0-2).Subs: CMcHugh(0-1) for Smith, CRed­din for How­ley (both 47mins), SBoland for Byrne, AMcGowan­for Do­ran (both 55), G Seaver for Basquel (64), JHa­z­ley for Bu­gler (72).

MEATH: BDardis; RRyan, CMcGill, SLavin; JMcEn­tee, DKeogan, NKane;BMen­ton, A Flana­gan;NHickey, BBren­nan (0-1), DQuinn; DCam­pion (0-3), MNew­man(0-5, four frees), TO’Reilly. Subs: GReilly (1-1) for Hickey (blood, 7-23 mins), MBren­nan for Dardis, Reilly (0-1) for Hickey, G McCoy for Quinn (all half-time), STobin for Bren­nan (49), JCon­lon(0-1) for Campion (64).

Ref­eree: F Kelly (Long­ford).

■ Paul Clarke: “I think we’ll be work­ing with the same squad we have for the fi­nal”

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