blue wave swells

Curran expects a host of senior stars from Dubs U21 All-Ireland winners

Rnn Mac Lochlainn

Amid the euphoria that greeted Dublin's All-Ireland U21 success at the weekend, 'Unleashing The Blue Wave: A Strategy for Dublin (2011-2017) was not uppermost in everyone's thoughts.

However, Dublin's ambitious strategic plan, released last year, stated that the county's aim was to secure no less than 24 All-Irelands between hurling and football in all grades (minor, U21, senior) over the next 15 years.

Well, last September Pat Gilroy's ended the famine by capturing the Sam Maguire and last Sunday's U21 win reduces that number to 22!

The long-term implications of Dublin's battling U21 final win over Roscommon may well be the preparation that the players undergo at this level when some of them make the step up to senior ranks.

The work being done at underage by development panels is being reflected in Dublin's relatively impressive strike-rate across all three grades in the past few years, particularly given how poorly the county had fared prior to that point.

Cyril Kevlihan's 2009 Leinster MFC-winning side was represented on Sunday with Kevin O'Brien, Michael Concarr, John Kelly, Ciarán Reddin, Mark Schutte, Gary Sweeney, Danny Byrne, Paul Hudson and Philly Ryan all having benefited from their exposure to provincial success three years previously.

Similarly, the contribution of last year's minor selection cannot be underestimated, with five of the Dublin side that tasted defeat against Tipperary allowed to exorcise those demons with massive contributions as the Dubs secured their third title at this grade.

As former Dublin senior, Paul Curran, has stated in this paper Dublin seem to be producing footballers who can win All-Irelands and who are comfortable with delivering performances when they are required the most.

An ability such as that is worth its weight in gold and Curran expects to see a number of Dublin's U21 panel enhance Pat Gilroy's senior panel in the not too distant future.

Naturally, much of the media focus had centred on the exploits of Ciarán Kilkenny, but the Ballymun Kickhams manager expects a prolonged intercounty career for many of Kilkenny's team-mates, with wing-back Jack McCaffrey making huge progress over the spring since his promotion from minor status.

"I appreciate that a lot of the talk has been about Ciarán Kilkenny and rightly so given how well he's played this year and, although he was quiet enough on Sunday, his mere presence still caused enough hassle over the hour and he was central to Dublin's goal in addition to kicking three points from play," said Curran.

"I've been very impressed as well with Jack McCaffrey and he's certainly way ahead of where I was at his age. He has everything in his locker as far as I'm concerned and is well able to attack as we've seen both last year and in this run. He may have to tailor his game a bit if he's to make the step up to senior as he mightn't fit into the system that Pat (Gilroy) utilises, but he definitely has the raw materials to succeed at a higher level.

"Another player that has caught my eye is Paul Hudson, who showed on Sunday how accurate he is off both feet and he's well able to win his own ball, while Seán George is another that may have the right temperament to make the panel sooner rather than later. I know he's from my own club but Seán has worked tremendously hard to get onto the panel and then earn his starting place and his upward curve has impressed me," added Curran.

Another crucial aspect of Dublin's success during the campaign was the consistent contribution from the bench and that was never more obvious than on Sunday. Paul Maguire, Seaver, Harry Dawson, Paddy O'Higgins and Paul Mannion all made their presence known, and Curran places the credit for that on Jim Gavin's managerial talent. He said: "It's all very well having the talent that the five lads who were brought on certainly have but their ability and desire to contribute definitely helped Dublin, who were struggling at times, get over the line.

"I would emphasise how important Jim's role was in keeping the subs fully focused.

"Jim ensured everyone who came on was fully tuned in and the importance of a strong bench has never been more relevant. Jim appreciates that more than anyone and it is a credit to his management that he got the response required from all of the lads on the panel," concluded Curran.