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Kilkenny could make his comeback in Croke Park


Ciaran Kilkenny

Ciaran Kilkenny

Ciaran Kilkenny

THERE is unlikely to be any significant strengthening of the Dublin team for Saturday night's visit of Donegal to Croke Park.

The most revealing line pertaining to selection matters from manager Jim Gavin in a 20 minute interview yesterday in Parnell Park to mark the launch of Dublin GAA's new 'hydration partner,' Britvic, was: "There is a certain group of players we want to give more game time to, the guys with the colleges and Under 21s, before that really hots up."

As Gavin pointed out, five of the six substitutes he used last Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn were unavailable to him to during the O'Byrne Cup, cup-tied with their respective colleges.

And a hefty chunk of those, and others, will co-habit Gavin's senior and Dessie Farrell's Under 21 squads, inevitably diminishing their training and playing time with the former.

Asked specifically whether the imminent arrival of Donegal, of all teams, would prompt a more experienced team selection, Gavin was staunch.

"No," he replied.

"We have a longer term project for the team. If everything works out well, we'll do well in the National league and we might get one or two more games in April."

"Most of them will be with the Under 21 team. So just trying to give them game time. We're always trying to strengthen the squad."

Updates on Gavin's missing stars were vague.

Neither Bernard Brogan nor Stephen Cluxton figured last Sunday or, indeed, at any stage in January and Gavin's explanation was thus: "Both of them will be back either next week or over the month of March. So they're both on track to play around then."

Asked whether either were nursing significant injury, he elaborated slightly.

"Stephen has a small injury. Bernard is playing with his club. Michael Darragh Macauley is playing with his club. Paddy Andrews is back. Philly McMahon is back as well, of players who were there last year.

"We hope they'll return to play before the end of National League."

On the subjects of Ciarán Kilkenny and Kevin O'Brien, both of whom suffered cruciate ligament injuries that ruined their 2014 but each of whom's expected return date has since passed, Gavin explained: "Both are doing very well.

"Both are partaking fully in training in the limited amount of pitch work that we're doing.

"So they're moving back on track. We hope to see them some time before the end of the National League."

Pressed as to whether either could form part of his Saturday night squad, he admitted: "It's a possibility.

"They're available for selection now."