Dooley primed to look after No 1 ahead of Galway clash
Conor Dooley finds himself in a most unusual position.
He's Dublin's No 1 right now and will be expected to start between the posts when they face Galway at the end of the month in the Leinster Championship.
But, bizarrely, he found himself on the bench for the opening round of the Dublin club SHC, with Ballyboden opting to go with former All-Star and fellow Dublin panellist Gary Maguire instead.
There is logic to it from the club's perspective. Blessed with two quality 'keepers, they realised that Dooley can be used as a outfield player so picking Maguire in goals gives them an extra option.
"They probably see me more as an outfield option than Gary," Dooley explains. "I'd like to think there is nothing between us, so why have him sitting on the bench whereas I might be able to offer something for 10 minutes?"
interchanging The pair have been interchanging as Dublin's No 1 this year but a suspension picked up by the Maguire against Kilkenny means that Dooley will be expected to start against the league champions on May 28 in Tullamore.
Jonathan Treacy is also in the squad as goalkeeper and they are coached by former Kilkenny All-Ireland winner David Herity. And Dooley expects manager Ger Cunningham to pick his No 1 based on form.
"It's between me and Jonathan Treacy (to start in the Galway game). It's good competition between the two of us. David Herity is coaching us. He's doing his best with both of us.
"Obviously, he's chasing the No 1 jersey and I'm trying to hold on to it before Gary comes back from suspension. Whoever is performing the best is going to get it. It's not a case of Gary's suspended, it's mine for the year. Ger will play whoever is playing best."
Dooley featured the last time Dublin and Galway clashed in the championship but, ironically, as an outfield player. That was in the Leinster quarter-final replay in Tullamore back in 2015 that saw the Tribesmen run out easy winners with Dooley coming on in the 69th minute.
"I came on for Dublin against Galway down in Tullamore the day that we got a hiding," he recalls.
"I was third-choice goalkeeper that year but just through injuries and stuff ended up playing outfield. (It) went alright, ended up coming on as a sub and I got a bit of a run-out with my club. The Ballyboden senior hurling team is hard enough to make so I think I need a few weeks' outfield training under my belt before I get a bit of game time there. I think I went for (the ball) and I ran into Iarla Tannion and it felt like I was hit by a freight train! Did I get a touch of the ball? I don't think so, no!"
Relegation from the top flight along with the well-documented absence of so many established faces mean that Dublin go into their championship opener under the microscope. But Dooley insists they won't be found wanting.
"We still have a good group of leaders. We still have experienced fellas, Gary Maguire, Liam Rushe, David O'Callaghan, Ryan O'Dwyer - you have your leaders there at the moment. It's very easy for lads to say we haven't got any experienced players so we didn't really perform. You are looking for lads to step up and if you play well you are given a chance.
"It's up to you to grab it if you can and if you can hold onto it then, you know you might become one of the experienced leaders yourself that everyone is talking about.
Guidance "All you can do is , show up and if you look for guidance and leadership off the lads that are there they will give it. But, it's up to you to kind of feed off them in training and move on then."
And Dooley acknowledges that the road could open up for the Dubs with a win over the Tribesmen.
"Like it's our main focus now at the moment. We're not looking beyond this. Realistically, if we can match Galway and manage to pull a win out of it, brilliant, it sets us up.
"But, as we all know, we're probably going in as the underdog, even though they're Division (1B).
"All you can do is go out and play and hopefully that you can match them, and hopefully that the training that we're doing is good enough to supersede what they've been at."
Dooley acknowledges that Galway's physicality will pose questions for Dublin's young side. But he insists playing to their potential will be their biggest challenge.
"I suppose time will tell. I'd like to think we can. We've seen flashes throughout the league and even in training. When we get going, we're capable of beating anyone. But it's whether we show up on the day or not is the real question."
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