Byrne plays down great expectations on Dubs
Published 01/04/2015 | 02:30
As reigning All-Ireland champions at the U-21 grade and minor All-Ireland winners of three years ago, Dublin are expected to collect another EirGrid Leinster U-21 title when they take on Kildare in Navan tomorrow night.
But captain Davy Byrne insists that much has changed in the three years since this Dublin side, under the guidance of Dessie Farrell, lifted the Tom Markham Cup.
And he also points out that from the side that went all the way last year in the U-21 grade, they have lost some important players.
"It is and it isn't the same team (as three years ago)," said the Dublin skipper. "There are one or two more lads and there are a lot of U-20s and U-19s coming in as well. It is its own team with a different dynamic and a different culture."
The U-21 grade has proved fruitful for the Dubs in recent years. This time around they face a Kildare team that have already taken a notable scalp in Meath in the Leinster semi-final.
The Royals made both the provincial and All-Ireland finals three years ago at minor level but Kildare - managed by Clane-based Corkman Brian Murphy - have usurped them as next best in Leinster.
Still, Farrell's side take a significant advantage in experience into the decider in Pairc Tailteann. The vast majority of the side have already won medals at some grade with Dublin at least once, and eight of the squad are also involved with Jim Gavin's seniors
"Coming into a second Leinster final at U-21 is definitely somewhat advantageous," Byrne said.
"But there is a completely different feel this year. The players last year who have gone - the likes of Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny and Emmet O Conghaile - they are huge characters, so it is a completely different team."
Byrne was afforded a couple of minutes' action for the seniors last year but he was thrown in at the deep end in this season's league and in his first start, picked up Donegal's Michael Murphy in their league clash.
"I would say physicality would have to be the main difference," he said. "U-21 can be blistering, it's just as fast, but at senior I think the players are that bit bigger, you can't be bringing the ball into contact as much at senior level.
"You have to be very conscious of that if you are trying to bring the ball into contact with a player like Michael Murphy.
"It was a tough challenge. He is a serious footballer. But it was a great opportunity to play in Croke Park."