Dublin’s Key Men – From 1-30
As Dublin prepare for their first real test in the defence of their double All-Ireland crown, it will be anybody’s guess until shortly before the game what players will line actually out. We should all know by now not to unquestioningly believe Dublin’s official line-out until we hear it in Croke Park before the game.
They’ve used 29 players in this year’s championship, and thirty if we include last uear’s final replay.
If you were told twelve months ago that Dublin would have to play without Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Flynn, Michael Darragh Macauley, Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan you’d have considered it a catastrophe.
Yet in their quarter final annihilation of Monaghan, Connolly was suspended, Flynn and Macauley came off the bench in the second half, back from injury, Brogan was brought on, unable to get a starting place in eleven months, and McManamon who still has to be one of Dublin’s key forwards, was simply not started or brought on!
With this in mind, and Dublin with close to a full deck for the first time this championship, we look at every Dublin player who has seen championship football this year or in last year’s final in order of how big a deal it would be if they were missing.
It’s not an order of ability as such, but an order of priority in terms of what each player brings relative to what would replace them if they were missing. In short, just how crucial each player is.
1 Stephen Cluxton
It’s Cluxton himself who has revolutionized Gaelic football with the kick-out to the point where an inter-county side without a keeper who can ping a ball to the chest of a free half back or midfielder are at a serious disadvantage.
Dublin more than any side rely on this as their entire game plan revolves around getting off the quick kick-out and running oppositions into the ground.
Of course, many are straight forward to the full back line, but it’s the kicks to the half back line and midfield which separate Cluxton from the rest. Numerous Dublin quick counter-attacks come off the back of his ability to land the ball in a player’s lap forty or fifty yards away.
Even when he gets one or two wrong in a game, like for Kerry’s goal in last year’s semi-final, his net value from perfectly placed kick-outs is always positive. Five Dublin points in that game still came off the back of Cluxton hitting kick-outs than most wouldn’t attempt and/or convert.
Dublin have missed some marquee names this summer and been nonchalantly unaffected. Cluxton’s absence would be another matter altogether. The entire arse could fall out of Dublin’s game-plan in his absence.
Nobody else can do what he does.
2 Brian Fenton
In the day and age of lateral play and slow build ups, Fenton is one midfielder who breaks the mold. His first thought every time he gets the ball is to look for the forward pass. And he has the vision and boot to deliver it.
Since James McCarthy has been re-invented as a midfielder, his loss wouldn’t be as crucially felt as previously, but it’s still not a prospect that many Dubs’ supporters would relish.
His greater significance, however, is as a fielder. Figures all year long have shown that Dublin have been fleeced on breaks against the top sides in the league when Cluxton has been forced to go long into the melting pot on kick-outs. They lost 19/4 against the top sides in this year’s league.
Fenton is the midfielder that Dublin had been crying out for. Tall and athletic he is the dream midfielder for any manager. Before he came along, with Jim Gavin’s penchant for the athletic midfielder, there was always the risk that Dublin could be wiped out on the long kick-out as they were by Donegal in 2014 when they last lost a championship match.
Standing at 6’4 Fenton has put an end to that threat. With his top-class football skills to boot, he is probably the outfielder that Dublin would miss the most if he were to be injured.
Nobody else can do what he does.
3 Ciarán Kilkenny
Kilkenny’s style probably splits opinion, nationwide, down the middle. He has the highest average possession stats in the country, yet detractors claim that he only ever passes the ball sideways and points.
The fact of the matter is that they’re wrong. Despite the fact that Kilkenny does indeed do that a lot, statistically, he was Dublin’s highest line breaker in the drawn final last year, and when you break down Dublin’s individual possessions, he’s consistently in the top five in terms of proportions of line breaks or semi-line breaks relative to total possession.
The lateral passing notion is an illusion, simply because he’s on the ball so much.
All evidence suggests that he simply has the wisdom to know when to attempt to break the line, and when and where to switch the play with a short pass.
Even more noteworthy than Fenton, Kilkenny has won three All-Irelands in a row. He missed the 2014 season through injury. It’s probably not a coincidence.
He’s the master game-controller who brings all of the other elements of Dublin’s play together, brilliantly. An added bonus is that he can play in any position, so he can be slipped into the half back line or as an extra midfielder, or as sweeper, seamlessly, without Jim Gavin having to re-shuffle the whole pack.
His ability to seamlessly switch between midfield and the full forward line has been both Judes’s and Plunketts’ downfall in club championship in the last twelve months.
He’s almost certainly the most complete footballer in the country and one of the corner-stones of the Dublin team.
Nobody else can do what he does.
4 Diarmuid Connolly
He’s been absent for three months so it remains to be seen if he starts or not against Tyrone. Even if he doesn’t, expect him to be on the field by half time at the latest.
Somewhat bizarrely, in big championship games over the last twelve months, club and county, he’s typically been on the ball significantly less than average for a centre forward, with ten and eleven being quite normal, and no more than fourteen in the drawn final last year.
It’s the magic he conjures up from those possessions, however, that is all telling. He has the highest possession to line-break ratio in the game with over half of his possessions resulting in a line-break or score. Frequently those scores come from a position where no scoring chance seemed on the cards.
Key in the modern game, he can reduce military like blanket defences to nothing with a couple of side-steps and fifty yard pointed kicks.
Even where he’s being well man-marked, it means that he requires the attention of the opposition’s best man-marker, which can allow the likes of Kevin McManamon or Con O’Callaghan to slip under the radar.
Nobody else can do what he does.
5 Dean Rock
As you look down the list you’ll notice that even top-class forwards are considerably further down the list than you might expect. It’s not on account of their raw ability, but on account of their replaceability.
You could take out Dublin’s best six forwards and they could still be favourites to win the All-Ireland with the next six. Sounds far-fetched? Neither Connolly or McManamon played any part against Monaghan and the game was as good as over by the time Flynn and Brogan came on. He’s been so injury-strung it remains to be seen if Cormac Costello would be a regular starter. That’s five. O’Gara s came off the bench. Conor McHugh and Shane Cathy would walk into most inter-county sides.
So why is Rock so highly valued? It’s not as though he’s so far above whoever could replace him in terms of raw ability that you couldn’t do without him. Though he does bring a balance and shape to the forward line.
For frees? He’s definitely the soundest free-taker Dublin have, but in percentage terms, probably not that far ahead of Cluxton or Connolly would hit on longer distance frees.
As tactics have evolved, games are being won and lost on the kick-out, and most crucially, on depriving the opposition the quick or short kick-out. The percentage expectancy of a score off a quick short kick-out compared to a long kick-out into the melting-pot tends to run between thirty and fifty percent of a point.
In last year’s semi-final against Kerry, it ended up running at 83 percent pf a point! That’s phenomenal. Organising the attack such that no defender is left free for the kick-out, might not seem like a significant job, but actually it’s now the second most important job in the game, after the keeper executing the short kick-out.
Who does this job? Dean Rock. Watch, even before Rock kicks a free and he’ll be the man who’ll be organising the attack to make sure the opposition are forced long on the kick-out.
You don’t miss the water until the well runs dry. Apart from his general play and free taking ability, if Rock were to go, the chances are Dublin’s score concession rate off the opposition kick-out would rise significantly.
Nobody else appears to be able to do what Rock does.
6 Paul Flynn
It’s hard not to have the impression that some of the criticism that has come Flynn’s way in the last two seasons was a bit harsh.
The reality is that not just the game, but Dublin’s style has completely changed since they lost to Donegal in 2014.
Whereas they were an all go-go-go swashbuckling side whose one and only plan was to over-run opponents, they now blend that with more “pick and poke” style football. This “pick and poke” style suits Flynn’s powerful running style far less.
So why is he still one of the key pieces in the jigsaw? Because inch for inch, he’s the best fielder in the country, and one of the best break winners too.
If Dublin make what I consider to be a grave error and put Flynn midfield, you’re going to lose that. Put him midfield and he’s conceding inches on his man. Leave him at wing forward and he remains a fielding animal.
Dublin, throughout the league, struggled hugely when they had to go long on kick-outs, being battered on breaks against all of the top five in the league.
Against Kerry in Tralee they were being extremely battered. Then Flynn came on. He won two long kick-outs from wing forward that nobody else would have, and was then fouled for a scoreable free.
In a game where the statistically most significant element has become kick-outs, Flynn offers Dublin a golden ticket to win two, three or four of their own per game, they’d otherwise probably lose on breaks.
Even if current tactics don’t lend themselves to Flynn’s greatest assets, for winning kick-outs alone, he’s irreplaceable.
Nobody else can do what he does.
7 Philly McMahon
Originally, I wasn’t convinced by his all-out attacking mentality from corner back, and lesser attention to detail regarding man-marking. Also, initial stats I took in 2014 also showed that for every line-break he successfully made, he conceded one turnover (ten of each in Leinster in 2014).
I’ve since been reformed. Or maybe he has! While still Dublin’s most guilty non-forward in terms of turnovers, the proportions have significantly reduced, and more significantly, are more than balanced out by the amounts of scores he kicks and sets up high up the field.
Most significantly, he is Dublin’s go-to man in terms of snuffing out top opposition corner/full forwards.
Most famously, “Colm Cooper kept him to one point” as he kept the best forward of a generation scoreless from corner forward and chipped in with one at the far end. He also got the better of a horse of a completely different colour in Aidan O’Shea when he was in the full forward line.
Based on these performances against two completely different styles of top, top forwards, you have to assume he’d be odds on to stop any top forward in the country.
Of course, he comes with a warning tag. He should really have been sent off against both Mayo and Kerry in 2015 for incidents with O’Shea and Ciarán Donaghy. He was suspended for Dublin’s opener against Carlow for abusing an official!
Saying that, as quoted in the media this week, he’d probably argue that he’s only been sent off once in his inter-county career, so he’s probably not as high a risk as he may seem. Undoubtedly for me, Dublin’s most significant defender.
Nobody else can do what he does.
8 Kevin McManamon
In the day and age of the zonal defence, his low stature makes him a key player in the attack. Just as modern tactics saw Kerry’s Darren O’Sullivan evolve from the full to the half forward line, McManamon has taken up the same mantle for Dublin.
Pay no attention to gullible match program writers who believe he’s six feet tall. Don’t they know he’s the joker in the pack?
Now the game needs big target men in the full forward line that can have long ball sent into before a zonal defence funnels back, and small, pacey ball carriers in the half forward line that can burrow through gaps that don’t appear to exist.
O’Sullivan and McManamon have been the two most significant players in the country in this regard.
Of course, he can kick great points and when the space is there to attack, there’s no better man. It’s his ability, however, to pick up ball the wrong side of a zonal defence and break the line or draw fouls that makes him a unique asset in the Dublin forward line.
His intelligence to take on defenders on the side that requires physical contact to stop him, makes him all the more dangerous/capable of winning frees.
In his apparently poor All-Ireland final replay last year, which some “experts” claim cost him an All-Star, he actually scored a point and was fouled for three scored frees, making him Dublin’s most significant scoring/fouled forward.
Nobody else can so what he does.
9 Jack McCaffrey
You probably still wouldn’t describe him as a complete defender, but his other attributes more than compensate for it.
He doesn’t seem to know how to man-mark, or even look like he wants to, and he has a penchant for being sucked to the ball, allowing attackers in behind him.
In the day and age of zonal defences, however, there’s a lot more room for this type of player in the half back line than twenty years ago. Especially when you have all the other assets McCaffrey has.
Apparently, he’s the fastest player in the history of the game, and I certainly can’t remember anybody who has come even close in the last thirty years. On top of this, he has impeccable close control on the solo, and phenomenal balance, making him the stand-out ball carrier in the game by a country mile.
On top of this, he has the intelligence to know when to go for the line-break and when to hold up the play.
As tactics evolve and there are clear statistical links becoming evident between the amount of time it takes to move the ball forward and the likelihood of scoring, his ball carrying ability is golden.
I’m not even a hundred percent certain I’d always start him, on account of his defensive frailties. But as games open up and defensive structures tend to give way to more open space, his pacey ball carrying will typically create carnage.
Nobody else can do what he does.
10 Eoghan O’Gara
I know. I have O’Gara in ahead of Bernard Brogan, Paddy Andrews, Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan and Cormac Costello. But as I’ve already pointed out, each of those, good as they are, has a similar replacement in that group. Miss one through injury, and the other will take their place.
Eoghan O’Gara is unique.
Now that he has curbed his penchant for trying to kick ball over the bar, running away from goal, under pressure when Bernard Brogan and the likes are outside him screaming for a hand-pass, he has become an irreplaceable part of the Dublin forward armoury.
Only in specific circumstances should he be started, but in a game where it’s clear that the dynamics have made it likely that long ball into the full forward line will be a viable option, he is the marquee target man.
Big, fast and aggressive, he also makes intelligent, well timed runs which are nigh on impossible to man-mark in the right circumstances.
If the need to send in long ball becomes apparent, he become one of Dublin’s most significant forwards.
Except for Connolly, who you want in the half forward line, nobody else can do what he does.
11 James McCarthy
Despite undoubtedly being one of Dublin’s best players, his loss wouldn’t be felt as acutely as some others on account of the abundance of half backs that Dublin have.
Good as he is coming off the shoulder and breaking the line, he’s not just as good as McCaffrey in this regard, but is a better defender. He is better in this regard than John Small and Eric Lowndes, but probably isn’t just the man-marker that either of these. He’s probably slightly better than Darren Daly in both regards.
Of course, possibly off the back of his performance for Ballymun against Vincent’s last year, he has evolved into a midfielder this season, and played exceptionally there. If Michael Darragh Macauley were still injured I’d put him higher up the list, but as it is, good as he is at wing back and midfield, there are two regular starting All-Ireland winning wing backs in Jack McCaffrey and John Small, and to midfielders in Macauley and Fenton, not to mention the Flynn option.
Saying that, for me, his performances this year make him the standout midfield partner for Fenton.
12 Cian O’Sullivan
O’Sullivan is probably only second to Kilkenny in terms of being the utility man. He’s now won All-Irelands at corner back, midfield and centre back-cum-sweeper. And he’s made the centre back-come-sweeper role his own.
Until Jonny Cooper starting taking up the position to such good effect this year, I’d have said that nobody else can do what he does, but his ability in this position, as well as his adaptability makes his a key asset for Dublin.
The long and the short of it is that outside of Tyrone and Donegal, broadly speaking, the application of sweepers is done extremely poorly. It’s not rocket science to cover the correct angles, but most sweepers get it chronically wrong and don’t cover the most efficient space.
O’Sullivan gets it right almost every time.
He’s not a textbook sweeper in the sense of playing a seventh player at the back, but as Dublin know virtually nobody plays six forwards anymore, O’Sullivan has been set up to be the free man, no matter what.
Leaving this space unoccupied was key to being over-run by Donegal in the second half in 2014, so the application of this role has been key.
At the start of the season I’d have said that nobody else can do what he can do (assuming you don’t put Ciarán Kilkenny , who could pay anywhere, there.
However, himself and Jonny Cooper have interchanged this position this year during games, and Cooper ha applied the position exceptionally.
It makes O’Sullivan slightly more expendable than previously, but he’s still the marquee centre back-cum sweeper with two All-Irelands won playing the position.
His absence would be sorely missed.
13 Jonny Cooper
When Rory O’Carroll announced that he wouldn’t be available for 2016, there were big question marks regarding the full back spot. Many worried that he was irreplaceable.
Along came Cooper, transitioning from corner back, and the problem was solved. He’d probably be further up the list except that any of the other corner backs, Davey Byrne, Mick Fitzimons or Philly McMahon could potentially fill this void, especially McMahon.
Saying that, Dublin don’t want to have to take McMahon away from the corner where he has more opportunity to dart up the wings and where he can be systematically put on oppositions’ marquee forwards. All the while Byrne isn’t tried and tested the way Cooper is.
On top of that, as of this year, he has taken up a role as part-time sweeper interchanging with Cian O’Sullivan. He has played the position exceptionally which makes him all the more of an asset.
All in all, his absence would be of concern, but far from catastrophic, as illustrated by last year’s final replay when he was black carded in the first half.
14 Con O’Callaghan
An explosive forward who not alone has the capacity kick exceptional points, but also has a lower centre of gravity which put him close to par, if not on a par with Kevin McManamon for burrowing through holes in defences that didn’t initially appear as though they existed.
Even with Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly back in the fold, the likelihood is he’ll be a starter.
Diarmuid Connolly aside, there’s probably no forward who would be a catastrophe to lose as it’s already a coin flip between two three players for every position.
Even amidst a panel with forwards coming out their ears, Dublin would probably lose something in his absence. Probably no other forward has the combination of his ability to kick points and break down blanket defences making him possibly more of an asset than most of the others.
15 Michael Darragh Macauley
Until James McCarthy adopted the role of midfielder so effectively, I’d have considered Maculey one of the key pieces in Jim Gavin’s jigsaw.
Miles to the contrary of common perception, Macauley’s figures from midfield in the drawn final last year, read significantly better than Flynn’s did in the replay.
Before his yellow card saw him withdrawn in the initial game, he had been on the ball 24 times, making seven “Mildly Positive” and five “Positive Penetrative” plays, with only two turnovers against him. All in all, they’re pretty impressive figures. On a whole game average, he had Dublin’s second highest possession figures and second highest line-breaking figures against their sixth highest turn-over figures.
Presumably, bringing Flynn to midfield was intended to get more out of one of their marquee players, but it didn’t. Contrary to common perception, Flynn’s figures were significantly better from wing forward in the drawn final (and all year) than from midfield in the replay. Also, they were hugely inferior to Macauley’s from the first game. That’s without getting into score concession figures which marked three points against Flynn!
Even if it’s now possibly second to the Fenton McCarthy combination, I see no evidence that Macauley and Fenton isn’t an ideal midfield pairing, with Fenton’s positioning and head perfect to complement Macauley’s forward dashes which have been a cornerstone to Dublin’s success.
It’s unlikely that he’ll start, but even coming off the bench, he’s crucial. Without him, you’re looking at moving Flynn from a key half forward position, even if that’s off the bench as opposed to starting, which I’d consider unideal.
16 Paddy Andrews
He’s not just as likely as Brogan to kick a ball over in the blink of an eye, but is more likely to find himself surrounded by defenders and manage to recycle the ball with methodical possession play.
To be fair, he’s probably not far behind Brogan in terms of the latter either. His entry in the drawn final last year was key as it earned Dublin’s first scores from play that weren’t own goals.
A serious forward, but owing to the amounts of players competing for his position, wouldn’t be an outrageous loss as an attacker if he were injured.
He has a subtler value, however. As more and more corner backs are peeling off their men to to pick up crucial short kick-outs from keepers, his defensive experience is of hidden value. The expected value of scores getting off short kick-outs compared with going long can be huge.
I’ll be amazed if I see his man pick up the kind of cheap, short kick-outs that most forwards are guilty of. The value of this shouldn’t be underestimated.
In fact, looking at the significance of Mayo getting off the short kick-out in their replay slaying of Kerry, his significance in this regard may well catapult him to the top five or six most important players if Dublin get past Tyrone.
17 Bernard Brogan
Though probably Dublin’s second most technically capable player, after Connolly, his absence wouldn’t be anything like as catastrophic as it would have been a few years ago.
Despite not being a starter at this points, by my rating, he’s still the best forward in the country to kick a point over in the blink of an eye. He tends to be 50/50 to kick over points within a second of receiving the ball whereas even most of the best of the rest are probably 20/80.
As Mark O’Sé put it, he thought he’s had a good game on him and he still scored three points.
It’s very much within the laws of probability that his blip in form last year was accountable by nothing more than the laws of averages on twelve or thirteen 50/50 efforts coming in at a lower than normal seven or eight points.
Until a couple of misses against Monaghan, his shot conversion figures this year were back up to his normal standards close to the eighty percent mark.
He’s unlikely to start, but later in a game, especially if Dublin find themselves struggling up front, he can kick scores in tight spaces that no other forward except Connolly can kick.
He’s still the man I’d want on the ball a point down going into injury time.
18 Paul Mannion
Possibly the most rounded of all of Dublin’s out and out forwards if you average out ability in terms of ability to kick the ball over in the blink of an eye, ability to hold possession in a tight space, and capacity to use pace to exploit gaps.
However, he probably comes in second to Brogan in the first, second to Andrews in the second and second to Costello in the third.
Could well start on Sunday and is one the best corner forwards in the country regardless. It would be a coin flip as to who to introduce with twenty minutes left if neither he nor Costello started and both were available.
Mannion ran riot against Donegal in such circumstances and Costello against Mayo. Again, assuming Costello and the rest would be fit, his absence wouldn’t be as big an issue as others, regardless of being one of the best corner or centre forwards in the country.
In Costello’s continued absence, as a similar style players, he’s probably
19 Cormac Costello
He’s been plagued with injuries since being Dublin’s highest scorer on a minute by minute ratio in 2014 by a country mile.
Of course, the question then was, could he do it against real competitors outside of Dublin?
Then he came on in the All-Ireland final replay last year and bettered his minute by minute 2014 Leinster average with three points in twenty minutes.
He probably wouldn’t have started in any circumstances, but the manner in which he can cut open the kind of spaces that almost inevitably open up in the final twenty minutes of games, would make him a key substitute. This is especially the case if Mannion starts, as it would deprive Dublin the option of a the slalom like runner that both of these are, off the bench.
20 John Small
When Jack McCaffrey arrived back from Ethiopia, you could have been forgiven for assuming that Small would return to being Dublin’s first sub in the half back line with a marquee half back line in Jack McCaffrey, Cian O’Sullivan and James McCarthy.
But his rock solid defensive ability combined with a head for ghosting into the attack has given Jim Gavin the luxury of altering that half back line, moving all three of those aforementioned players into different positions for the Monaghan quarter-final.
Even as some big names return to the fold, you’d have to bet on him keeping his place. Saying that, with Eric Lowndes now proven as a solid wing back, and with more than enough options around the field to ship the others back into the half back line, his absence wouldn’t be a catastrophe.
21 Eric Lowndes
A solid defensive wing back, with an excellent capacity for breaking the line, he has added something to the Dubs. On top of being a superb wing back, he has played a versatile role as a roving half forward, illustrating just how composed a footballer he is.
Good as he is, as a wing back there are a number of All-Ireland winning starters queuing up in the same position. With Flynn and Macauley back in the fold and Kilkenny therefore less likely to play in the middle, it’s less likely that he’ll be needed in the half forward line.
You have to assume that Small and McCaffrey would be first choice wing backs ahead of him.
Undoubtedly a superb player, but his absence wouldn’t be critical on account of the amount of established players who play the same role.
22 Mick Fitzimons
For me, the best man-marker in Dublin, my defensive instincts would have his name first on the number 2/4 jerseys.
But then, Philly McMahon is a rare bird from corner back so one of those jerseys is gone, unless McMahon is full back.
He marked Gooch Cooper in the 2011 final and gave a stern performance Cooper’s goal came off Darren O’Sullivan’s line-break), so we know he can cope with the best of them. For me, it’s only been surprising that it’s taken so long for him to become the regular starting corner back
Saying that, assuming McMahon, Cooper, Lowndes, Byrne and Daly to all be fit, he wouldn’t be a massive loss, as Dublin now have a plethora of half backs who can play in the full back line too and a solid full back line in McMahon, Cooper and Byrne as started in the drawn final last year.
Saying that, he’s technically the best man-marker in Dublin for me.
23 Davey Byrne
An excellent all-round man-marking corner back. He’s not going to break the line high up field like Philly McMahon, but you wouldn’t worry about him marking the best of forwards in the country either.
The fact that he’s one of three corner backs who could fill the same role, along with Mick Fitzimons and Darren Daly, not to mention Cian O’Sullivan potentially going into the full back line and moving Jonny Cooper into the corner, his loss wouldn’t be so hard felt.
24 Darren Daly
With a full panel, he’s probably unlikely to start but is probably more likely to be brought on than most other subs. The fact that he can comfortably play as a wing or corner back, probably makes him quite valuable and with a higher ability for ball carrying than a number of the defenders in the team, he’ll typically add something when brought on late in a game.
25 Niall Scully
Followed an impressive league campaign with appearing to be a regular in the Leinster Championship before not being used for the quarter final clash with Monaghan.
With Flynn, Macauley and Connolly back in the fold since that quarter final, the chances of him coming off the bench appear to have reduced.
26 Shane Carthy
A versatile wing forward or midfielder, he’s probably been the best club midfielder in Dublin in the last year. He’d probably make wing forward on most county teams in the country.
It’s as a half forward he’s been used with Dublin though, and with Flynn and Connolly back in the fray, he’s probably unlikely to see game time at this stage of the championship
27 Mark Schutte
Having come in under the radar in the Carlow game we suspected he might have a bigger role in this year’s championship but it hasn’t transpired.
Saying that, Jim Gavin didn’t bring him in for no reason. It’s not beyond reason that he could play a part yet, but with Fenton and McCarthy looking fixed at midfield and Macauley back in the fray, not to mention the possibility of Flynn being used at midfield, it’s probably fairly unlikely.
28 Dennis Bastick
The ultimate midfield grafter, he’s already defied all modern expectancy by seeing championship game time at midfield this year against Carlow at age 36.
It’s not beyond reason that he could be brought on in the final minutes of a big game to add his calm head and experience to affairs, but with age going against him and McCarthy now at midfield, he’s probably one down in the pecking order already.
29 Brian Howard
An up and coming midfielder who was one of the standout midfielders in the club championship last year, you wouldn’t have an fears if he were to be in the middle for Dublin.
If push came to shove late on, it’s hard to say who’d get the nod between himself Schutte and Bastick, but unless Jim Gavin is planning on moving James McCarthy back into the half back line, the chances of any of these three getting on probably aren’t huge.
30 Conor McHugh
Would probably walk into most county teams, and you’d assume would be a regular sub at least in any other county. With so many forwards to choose from, however, the chances of him getting a run at this stage of the championship are probably fairly slim.
By Stephen O’Meara
Photos courtesy of Kieron O’Brien