Early warning as Dubs set out on glory quest
DUBLIN 3-13 DUBS STARS 1-18
DUBLIN footballers' desperate quest for a long-overdue All-Ireland will continue at ungodly hours again this season.
Manager Pat Gilroy has confirmed that their first collective training session of the New Year will start at 6.30 sharp tomorrow.
And though he joked to the media that "you can decide if that's 'am' or 'pm'", it will clearly be the former.
As he starts his third season in charge, it is good to see that Gilroy still retains his sense of humour.
Four All-Ireland semi-final losses since 2002 -- three by a single point, including last August's costly late loss of discipline against Cork -- means a sense of perspective is a prerequisite for the Dublin job these days.
And if Gilroy didn't know that before, then he certainly did just 15 minutes into Saturday's Evening Herald/Dublin Bus Dubs Stars game at St Brigid's.
This annual New Year's Day friendly against a team representing the best of Dublin's club players is traditionally a gentle season-opener: a game for clearing the players' dirty diesel and the spectators' festive hangovers.
But within a minute of throw-in, Rory O'Carroll was gone with an ankle injury. O'Carroll had lined out for the Dubs Stars because he is not only committed to Kilmacud's club campaign at present but, as he's working in Paris, is also likely to miss most of the upcoming National League.
The fact that the youngest of the Brogan dynasty, Paul, was given Dublin's No 3 jersey on Saturday was an early indicator that he is O'Carroll's likeliest replacement.
Back to full fitness after two cruciate surgeries, his return is particularly timely yet, by the 11th minute, Brogan was also gone injured, and four minutes later, county U-21 star Cian Mullins pulled up with a hamstring injury.
Both sides had arrived with just three subs apiece and, despite playing on an immaculate all-weather surface in a game characterised by powder-puff tackles, all were used up by half-time.
Dublin played most of the final quarter with only 14 men, which helped the Dubs Stars reduce their six-point lead.
After such an inauspicious start to the New Year, Gilroy would be forgiven for ditching all his back-room experts and loading it instead with rabbits' feet and black cats.
But he was his usual unfazed self afterwards, reckoning hopefully that O'Carroll's injury was just an ankle twist and insisting that Brogan's replacement was merely precautionary.
"He has a slight problem with the back of his knee which means he struggles on this surface, but I think he's fine," Gilroy explained.
From 'startled earwigs' in 2009 to 'defensive drones' in 2010, the Dubs have certainly had contrasting personalities and line-ups in Gilroy's first two years in charge and there was little clue in this early-season blowout as to what we can expect in 2011.
But he did stress that the upcoming O'Byrne Cup -- Dublin open against Westmeath next weekend -- will be used to look at new players, particularly as he's without so many regulars due to injury and early-season college and club commitments.
Most of his regular show-stoppers -- including Player of the Year Bernard Brogan -- were absent on Saturday, but Gilroy's side still managed to rack up 3-13 from play, with Michael Darragh Macauley scoring a cracking goal, Alan Hubbard and Kevin McMenamon to the fore and Dean Kelly and Darragh Nelson also impressing.
And it wasn't so much new boys as some old boys who gave him something to ponder, as Tomas Quinn and Mark Vaughan both threw down an early-season gauntlet in Dubs Stars jerseys.
Quinn was always busy. He was impeccable from frees and forced a great late save from Stephen Cluxton, while Vaughan chipped in with an impressive 1-2, including a free that rocketed over off the post.
The Dubs Stars were heavily populated with Kilmacud players, and this game gave them a decent test ahead of their Leinster club final against Rhode in three weeks, but O'Carroll's injury will surely be a cause of concern for them.
Scorers -- Dublin: MD Macauley 1-2, E O'Gara, D Stapleton 1-1 each, A Hubbard 0-3, D Kelly, K McManamon 0-2 each, D Nelson, C Mullins 0-1 each. Dubs Stars: T Quinn 0-7 (0-6f), M Vaughan 1-2 (0-1f), B Kavanagh, P Andrews 0-3 each, A Morrissey 0-2, P Burke 0-1.
Dublin -- S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P Brogan, N Devereaux; P Casey, J McCarthy, D Nelson; M D Macauley, C Mullins; A Hubbard, K Bonner, P Flynn; D Kelly, E O'Gara, K McManamon. Subs: G Brennan for Brogan (11), D Stapleton for Daly (14), C Murphy for Mullins (15).
Dubs Stars -- R O'Flaherty; W Lowry, Rory O'Carroll, G Norton; K Nolan, B McGrath, S Murray; C Dias, K Darcy; A Morrissey, T Quinn, L Og OhEineachain; D Connolly, B Kavanagh, P Andrews. Subs: C Lambe for O'Carroll (1), P Burke for Dias (15), M Vaughan for Connolly (22).
Ref -- K Tighe (St Anne's).