Giller putting guns to heads: Connell

Conor McKeon

FORMER Dublin star Senan Connell believes Pat Gilroy is "putting a gun to the head" of his All-Ireland heroes by selecting the majority of last September's starters for Sunday's All-Ireland SFC opener with Louth (4.30).

The Na Fianna ace believes there was "scope for Gilroy to look at the wider periphery of the panel" in deciding upon his maiden 2012 summer line-up, and that the Dublin boss has laid down an initial test of the group's hunger by going with so many of the tried and trusted.

"I think Pat Gilroy is looking at the fact that there is a lot being made of the question of whether Dublin are hungry enough," Connell told the Herald at the launch of TV3's GAA Championship coverage, beginning with Sunday's meeting of the Sam Maguire holders and Louth.

"We know last year they were ravenous to win that All-Ireland. Maybe this is going to be the stick to beat them with. And if they don't perform, he could drop a couple and stick a young fella in for the next round."

Connell was adamant, however, that the Leinster Championship amounts to no more than a phoney war in Gilroy's agenda and, much like last year -- when they scraped through unconvincing wins over Kildare and Wexford -- the first true sighting of the Dubs will arrive only on the August bank holiday weekend, when the All-Ireland quarter-finals are played.

"Looking at the last two seasons," Connell explained, "I think the way Pat Gilroy looks at the championship is, he skips the provincial championship.

"I think he views August as the start of the championship and I think he will train fellas hell-for-leather in the gym and on the training pitch before that with a view to peaking in August.

"Players need game-time and they need it in Croke Park to get to the pitch of championship football, and it can happen only through playing in the championship so I can understand why he is playing those players.

"But whatever happens, he's going to have his best team out in August when Dublin are in an All-Ireland quarter-final, be it through the backdoor or winning Leinster."

Both Brogans, Alan and Bernard, have been included for Sunday, despite a major lack of action during the league, and it is current Footballer of the Year, Alan, who Connell believes is most vital to the long-term well-being of the Sky Blue cause.

"We know all about Dublin being defensive, but the key to Dublin is all about how they transition the ball from defence to attack when they get it and Alan is the fulcrum," he explained.

"He's the link player so there is a little bit of pressure on him to play and play well."

However, he also warned: "Everybody is the country knows about Alan's awareness of space, his intuition, his eye for goal and I think he could even be man-marked for games.

"He ghosted around the park last year, going deep and has the ability to kick the ball 60 yards at his ease.

"So it's going to be a difficult one for Alan to scale those heights again," added the Na Fianna clubman.

With no new faces to consider in the Dublin team for Sunday at least, Connell says he is looking forward to one of their 2011 heroes making a more sustained impact over the course of the summer.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing Kevin McManamon and how he does in terms of starting," he added.

"He's a guy who can play well inside or on the '40', running at defences.

"I saw him in the league when a lot of people didn't travel to away matches and he was showing the pedigree he has.

"He's not a 'one-trick pony'. He can run hard at defences and score and he's a guy who could stand up and he won't want to be remembered as a super-sub."