Gavin rings the changes in bid to find new shape
THE new managers of Leinster football rivals Meath and Dublin have got to work quickly with the business of injecting new life into, and trimming personnel from, the squads they inherited.
Dublin's Jim Gavin has assembled a 50-strong preliminary panel and the players will embrace individual training programmes until collective training begins for them in mid-December.
In a significant cull, Ross McConnell, reserve goalkeeper Michael Savage and Paul Brogan have joined Eamon Fennell as the highest-profile names to lose out; added to the retirements of Mossie Quinn and Paul Casey in recent weeks, it represents a substantial changing of the guard from the squads assembled by both Paul Caffrey and Pat Gilroy in the previous eight years.
However, speculation that Barry Cahill may join the ranks of the retired appear to be premature. He is understood to be included in Gavin's new squad.
Rising dual star Cormac Costello, who has played in five All-Ireland minor finals (including this year's hurling replay) in the last two seasons, is one of four of this year's minor football team who have been called up and, with an invitation to join Anthony Daly's hurling squad also on the table, he faces some difficult choices.
Alan Brogan admitted it was sad to see some of his friends leave the Dublin squad for different reasons but has welcomed the vast change in personnel for other reasons.
"Every new manager who comes in has to make a couple of changes," he acknowledged. "It keeps fellas on their toes. Guys who are already there have to prove themselves again and the new guys coming in also have to prove their worth.
"It's for the good of the panel. When you're operating at the level we're trying to operate at, you need competition for places -- not just in the team but also at the latter end of the panel. I think that's what Jim is trying to create."
Brogan admits that it would have been difficult to bring about wholesale changes 12 months ago.
"I think it would have been unfair after winning an All-Ireland to start clearing fellas out. It is easy to say that now but after winning an All-Ireland, it is hard to say 'right you're gone, you're gone and you're gone.'
"Pat was obviously loyal to the players who won the All-Ireland and I think any manager would be the same."
Brogan expects discipline to top Gavin's agenda over the next few months. "Jim is from an army background, so he has a very disciplined approach. He's very focused and he'll certainly leave no stone unturned," said Brogan.
As expected, Dessie Farrell has been confirmed as Dublin's U-21 manager, stepping up from the minor team with whom he won this year's All-Ireland.
Meanwhile, Meath goalkeeper David Gallagher has retired from the inter-county game, having been coaxed back by Seamus McEnaney when Brendan Murphy retired at the end of 2011 and Paddy O'Rourke was deemed surplus to requirements.
With Murphy content to remain in retirement, O'Rourke has been brought back into the fold and is expected to be No 1 goalkeeper next year. O'Rourke was first-choice between the sticks in 2009 but McEnaney used him as a full-forward throughout the 2011 championship.
New manager Mick O'Dowd has released long-serving midfielder Mark Ward from the squad in addition to defender Chris O'Connor, while Donnacha Tobin will not be available next year if he follows through on plans to go to Australia in the new year.
Ward sustained ankle ligament damage prior to this year's championship and subsequent surgery forced him out for the remainder of the season. He has yet to return to club activity as Navan O'Mahony's embark on their Leinster club championship campaign.
Both Gavin and O'Dowd addressed their respective county boards on Monday night to outline their plans. O'Dowd also had his first meeting with his new Meath squad last weekend.
Elsewhere, Donie Kingston has returned to the Laois squad after a 12- month absence.