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jackies are extra eager for 2015

THE Jackies brought the custard to Coolock on Sunday. They topped off a productive, purposeful hour by scoring 6-15 and conceding a mere five points against the Dub Stars in the AIG-sponsored annual ladies football fixture.

It was chilly at Parnell's. It didn't take Dublin long to warm up.

This was no stroll in the winter sunshine. Places on the first 15 will be hard won next season.

Yet two of the county's most distinguished footballers, Siobhan McGrath and Sinead Aherne, won't be in the mix. They have taken time out to travel.

"Yet the option is still there that if they are back in the country next April, they will be back in the squad," announced Dublin manager, Gregory McGonigle, managing the side with Davy Burke, Bobby McNulty and Kathleen Colreavy.

Both girls have brought so much to the Dublin jersey over the years. And the artful Aherne has been the leader of the Dublin attack.

Her absence might see Dublin changing the furniture, as Gregory outlines.

"Players often get the benefit of a rest from the game. It also creates opportunities for others. Nicole Owens scored nine goals in three games in the All-Ireland U21 Championship this year. So the likes of Nicole and others will get the chance to play senior football.

"And maybe without Sinead, we might have to think about developing a different style of play. So, in the overall scheme of things, missing players like Siobhan and Sinead could be something of a positive thing for Dublin as well.

"When Henry Shefflin is missing for Kilkenny, they just carry on. And when he comes back, they are all the stronger for it."

But it's unlikely that Gregory will adjust the settings too much.

"I'd be quite happy with the style of football that we played this season. It was an open, expansive style. We get the ball as early as possible and try to deliver it in quickly to our forwards. Then we work as hard as we can when we haven't got the ball. It's not rocket science.

"I have managed Monaghan, but I don't think Monaghan ever rattled Cork in Croke Park the way that Dublin did last September.

"We are still hurting from that defeat. We have to focus on the last 20 minutes of that game.

"We have talked about it. It's about developing and improving players. It's being a bit more ruthless. About developing a tougher skin.

"But we are happy enough where we are sitting at the moment. There's a depth of talent in the county, and it's all about the players working hard and being delighted when they are given a county jersey.

"We are back in the gym this week, and then from next Friday, we'll be starting our training programme.

"We'll also take into account the commitments of our college players. We have a lot of girls with DCU and UCD."

Last term, Dublin had one of their finest ever seasons, runners-up in the All-Ireland final and in their first National League Division 1 final.

Both defeats were to Cork, the RTé Team of the Year. You can't do much better than that.

But that's exactly what Gregory's Girls will be striving to do in 2015.

We are still hurting from that defeat. It's being a bit more ruthless.

About developing a tougher skin.

- Gregory McGonigle