Keaney a huge loss to Dublin footballers, warns Whelan
Published 10/05/2011 | 05:00
Former Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan believes that the county's footballers will pay a heavy price for Conal Keaney's defection to Anthony Daly's hurlers.
Keaney played a central role in Dublin's recent Allianz Hurling League Division 1 success, and Whelan insisted that the Ballyboden St Enda's hitman would have made a massive difference against Cork in the football decider.
Whelan, revealed yesterday as a new Gaelic football analyst for RTE's 'The Sunday Game' highlights show, said: "One thing I did think was that Conal Keaney would probably have liked to have stayed with the footballers.
"That was his preference (but) because he wasn't going to be utilised fully, he felt hurling was a better option. If we had Conal to come in for 10 or 15 minutes against Cork -- he's a natural scorer, a left-sided free-taker and he would have made a big difference.
"His loss was felt against Cork and it will be going forward.
"One of the weaknesses Dublin have is that they don't have a left-sided free-taker. You have to cover all angles, all scenarios coming into that last five minutes. It's a weakness that (manager Pat) Gilroy will have to sort out."
Whelan, however, believes that the Metropolitans provided enough evidence in their defeat against Cork to suggest that they will embark on a successful championship campaign.
The Raheny clubman, who won six Leinster titles and two All Star awards, admitted that coughing up an eight-point lead against the Rebels is a source of concern. But he warned that Cork's difficulties in the league decider will also cause their boss Conor Counihan some sleepless nights.
"I saw enough in the first 50 minutes of the National League final to know that Dublin are going to be contenders come the latter stages of the championship," said Whelan.
"Cork have to ask themselves why they were eight points down after 50 minutes. Again, when the team is victorious these things can get lost and I think Cork need to become more consistent. They definitely have the best footballers in the country, but they need to deliver on a more consistent basis.
"I felt, as usual, there was an overreaction (to Dublin's defeat).
"Dublin had only been beaten by the All-Ireland champions by a point, ultimately. Okay, the manner of the defeat was worrying and they have to recover from that mentally, but Pat Gilroy will take the positives from the league and keep the momentum that they had built up."
And Whelan feels that losing against the Leesiders will benefit Dublin more than securing a victory, which would have led to sky-high expectations heading into the championship.
Whelan, who has predicted a Kerry All-Ireland triumph, added: "I sat there and I said to myself, 'if they win this by 12 or 13 points it'll be a disaster for Dublin', because they would go into the All-Ireland as favourites and expectation would go through the roof.
"In hindsight, hopefully it will be a good thing. It would have been nice to win a national title, Dublin have needed a national title for the last few years."
Gilroy has overseen an impressive transformation following last year's disastrous Leinster SFC defeat to Meath, when the Sky Blues leaked five goals in an 11-point mauling.
And Whelan admitted: "I would have been critical of Pat following the Meath defeat. I didn't think the team was going in the right direction and morale was low, but they bounced back and it's amazing what a bit of momentum and a few victories will do."
In a wide-ranging analysis of the football landscape, Whelan also acknowledged that Dublin's up-and-coming dual stars now face a difficult choice on the back of the hurlers' new-found status as National League champions.
But he insisted that the two codes can co-exist successfully in the capital.
"With the population in Dublin, the players are certainly there," he said.
"What tends to happen is the really good guys are good at both and players can only play one game. I think the day of the dual player is finished. Can Dublin, as a county, cope with the dual status? I think they can."