independent

Sunday 17 February 2019

Final shot for Dublin hopefuls

O'Byrne Cup

Rory Kerr

It has been the month of the penalty shootout (three in all over the last week), but don't expect any comparisons with the Republic of Ireland's dramatic sudden-death shootout success against Romania in that unforgetable Italia '90 fixture.

Many GAA fans will be scratching their heads at this new departure, while critics of the newly introduced hand pass rule - perhaps an Irish solution to an Irish problem - will no doubt be dreading what impact it would have were it to be introduced for the All-Ireland championships.

That said, events in Tuam Stadium and Parnell Park - which saw both games require penalties - over the weekend have given the game's subsidiary competitions a few more column inches, and at this time of year that can't be a bad thing at all.

Dublin, for their part, saw off their neigbours Meath thanks to deciding kicks from Aaron Byrne, Oisín Lynch (Fingallians) and Conor McHugh to see them through to Friday night's decider against Westmeath in Parnell Park (8pm).

Despite the odd dissenting voice about this being 'Paul Clarke's team', the Dublin public have nonetheless rowed in with their support, with 6,000 in attendance on Saturday night against their old rivals.

This will be Clarke's third year in charge of the O'Byrne Cup side - he won it in his first year when Maur's man Ciaran Reddin lifted the trophy up in Drogheda - and speaking after Saturday's win he paid special tribute to netmider Andy Bunyan.

'Our goalkeeper Andy, who got his first start for Dublin last year in the O'Byrne Cup, has made great progress,' he said.

'I think it's great testament to Josh (Moran), our goalkeeping coach, that Andy had a fine game from start to finish.'

Dublin will be bidding for their tenth O'Byrne Cup success this Friday and there is likely to be a Fingal interest. Clarke was able to call on experienced hands like Reddin and Ballyboughal's Gerry Seaver in the second half, but for the most part the Whitehall Colmcille man has drawn from the ranks of Dublin's Under-21 and Minor panels from the last number of years.

Oisin Lynch, who was very impressive for his club Fingallians last year, has formed a terrific partnership with Conor McHugh, while Skerries Harps' Stephen Smith - after a terrific display against Dublin defender Johnny Cooper in last season's club championship - has proved one of the trickiest corner forwards to mark in the Capital.

Further out the field, Cormac Howley (Round Towers Lusk), one of the most complete footballers to come out of north County Dublin in quite some time, has taken to the midfield role well, while St Sylvester's big man Jack Hazley has proved what a handful he can be around the square.

Fingal Independent

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