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Frank Roche: Whelan not for turning

PAT GILROY has dramatically floated the prospect of a Sky Blue comeback for Ciaran Whelan -- but the retired Dublin star is almost certainly not for turning.

The Dublin manager has also expressed the belief that Conal Keaney will choose football over hurling this week, even though Anthony Daly hasn't given up the ghost on luring the talented dual star back into the capital's small-ball camp.

Gilroy has consistently stated that the Dublin footballers are poised for a major squad overhaul this spring but, after starting the New Year with a nine-point defeat in the annual Evening Herald Dubs Stars challenge, he confirmed that the recently-departed Whelan is still on his radar.

"It's only two months since he made his decision so we'll leave Ciaran alone. We'll talk to him again in April or May, we'll see how he is then," Gilroy remarked, after watching his rookie charges lose by 3-13 to 1-10 to the Dubs Stars in Fingallians.

Barring an improbable turn of events, though, Whelan will stick to last autumn's retirement announcement - with Raheny sources adamant that he won't return. His various public comments since then have also made it clear that his decision followed long consideration, rather than being a reflex reaction to Dublin's crushing Kerry defeat.

Moreover, he will soon turn 34 and it's hard to conceive him doing a U-turn in late spring, so close to the championship, without any inter-county training in the tank.

Speaking to the Dublin GAA Yearbook before Christmas, the two-time All Star reflected: "Anybody who might say I won't miss next summer . . . of course I will. But I won't miss the preparation, and I was very clear in my own head that it was probably going to be my last year. The way Pat and his management are talking anyway, even if I hadn't retired who knows if I would have been around."

Gilroy's comments regarding Keaney -- who lined out for the Dubs Stars footballers yesterday -- are equally intriguing. Even though speculation still surrounds his ultimate inter-county choice, the football boss declared: "I think Conal is coming out training with us this week. As far as I'm concerned, he's coming out to play football. I haven't heard anything to the contrary."

Gilroy won't have been overly perturbed by yesterday's defeat, given that many of his likely squad were starring for the opposition, whereas Daly saw his charges (including 'comeback kid' Shane Ryan) run out comfortable 3-16 to 1-11 winners over the hurling Dubs Stars.

With the winter training ban now over, both Dublin squads are embarking on intense regimes - the footballers are due to train both tomorrow morning and evening.