REDEMPTION could be swift for Eamon Fennell, starting - he hopes - with tomorrow night's trip to Laois.
By virtue of the dense Castlebar fog of a couple of Saturdays ago, the Dublin midfielder has served a paradoxical one-match suspension - yet will likely have played a part in every one of Dublin's Allianz League Division 1 matches by the time the campaign concludes.
That he only missed a half match matters little to Fennell, though. His sending off against Kerry in the league opener didn't, by his own admission, look great after a clumsy collision with rampant Kerry midfielder, Bryan Sheehan.
“I was obviously upset for personal reasons,” he told the Herald this morning after being named in midfield for tomorrow's clash with Justin McNulty's men in Portlaoise.
“I missed the whole league last year. To me, it's all about the team. I felt I let the team down massively that day. It wasn't a great feeling walking off the pitch in Croker with your head down.
“But the lads all supported me. It has happened to a few of them but they said the only way to get over it is to get back into training and get back into the team and prove yourself in the next game.”
Of the incident itself, Fennell explains: “What I was trying to do was check his run and stop him getting the return pass. When you look back at it in slow motion, I was stationary. It was his momentum that took him and I caught him the wrong way. I was busting to get on. But I was just trying to check his run.”
Pat Gilroy - who has shown enough faith in Fennell to omit All Star, Michael Darragh Macauley, to cater for his comeback - agreed.
“He was very disappointed with himself that day, and he has really knuckled down,” revealed the Dublin manager.
“He had been going quite well in
training, and in the Kerry match he made a difference when he came on. It was a moment that he has learned from, so I don't expect that we're going to have a similar problem again.”
As for his own game, Fennell concedes now that he put too heavy a focus on weight training in his last injury-enforced absence and has worked harder on mobility this time around. It is, he says, vital now in the boiler-room known as ‘the middle third' to play smart rather than merely playing hard.
“I never like to catch the ball and land with ten lads around you,” he notes. “You try and avoid that one. If we don't get the support of the half backs and the half forwards, we're never going to win anything.
“It just means that we have to get contact in all our kickouts, be it a flick or a catch or whatever. We have to be able to play it as you see it. If you catch it these days, you're going to have a load of players around you.”
Fennell has been impressed with McNulty's rethink in Laois and testament to its effectiveness, he says, was their victory in Donegal in their last outing.
“I think you have to find the one thing that works for you,” he says, noting that the O'Moore men will be much flintier opposition than they posed in last year's Leinster SFC clash.
“Laois tailor their game around what suits them best, the same way we have our gameplan.
“I I think it's best for a team to find what works for them and see then how well they can implement it. But I think they have found it this year. It looks like they have anyway.
“We struggled against Kerry when they changed their gameplan. We didn't adapt. Laois are a physical and fit team so we have to match them in that regard. It will be a tough game.”
“We've lost a game already. We can't afford any more slipups. This is a big game for us.
“We need to get back to winning ways. We need a win at the weekend,” stressed the St Vincent’s man.