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Thrown in at deep end

Experience in the Dublin squad will be vital as Dessie looks to hit the ground running


It was never going to be easy for Dessie Farrell to take over such a successful side

It was never going to be easy for Dessie Farrell to take over such a successful side

It was never going to be easy for Dessie Farrell to take over such a successful side

There's probably no easy way to take over as manager of a five-in-a-row winning team, but, by God, Dessie Farrell has had to do it the hard way.

The late appointment. The shutdown. The big retirements.

Some first-year managers might be unlucky enough to have to think their way through one of those scenarios while also figuring out the nuts and bolts of their new job.

All three? So much for a smooth transition. Jim Gavin was in a much better position when he succeeded Pat Gilroy.

In 2012, he took control of a team that hadn't just won the All-Ireland. That mattered. He walked into a dressing room that was already convinced by our loss to Mayo in the 2012 semi-final that change was required on some level.

We were open to new ideas. And Jim had plenty of them; how he wanted the side to develop tactically, improvements he saw in our preparation.

And, as manager of an All-Ireland Under 21 winning team that same year, he had a list of talented, successful young players he wanted to add to the mix, increasing competition among the group and accelerating our development.

But most crucial of all, he had plenty of time for trial and error. Dessie has none of these things.

Players are naturally keen to prove themselves to a new manager but, by the same token, everybody in Dessie's new set-up will have to demonstrate that they can carry out their role to the standard the group has set in the past.

Mick Galvin is a very astute football man. His skill is in relating to players, speaking to them about issues they might have, and being an ally for Dessie on the line. He's not a hands-on coach.

Brian O'Regan has done exceptional work with Ballyboden St Enda's for over a decade, but clearly, doesn't have the same sort of inter-county credentials Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock had when they started working as coaches with Dublin.

So any way you look at it, a period of adjustment is unavoidable.

Neither does Dessie have a battalion of new additions.

When Jim took over, it was obvious that the likes of Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and John Small were going to play senior for Dublin, it was just a case of how soon.

Now? It was obvious from the tweaks Dessie has made to his squad and the fairly limited experimentation he has carried out in the League that the pool is shallower now.

Which isn't the case elsewhere. In Kerry, there's understandable optimism about what Tony Brosnan can bring to an already varied attack. They look also to have made significant gains in their physical conditioning during the lockdown.

In Tyrone, Conor McKenna has been an unexpected revelation while Darragh Canavan's rise seems slightly ahead of schedule.

And no-one in Mayo will remember their relegation to Division 2 if Oisín Mullen and Mark Moran prove themselves to be as good as they looked against Galway a couple of weeks ago.


There's no reasonable way of arguing that the 2020 squad is better than the 2019 version.

Jack McCaffrey is gone. Diarmuid Connolly is gone.

Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O'Gara and Darren Daly might not have played much over the past two years, but the loss of their experience and sheer presence in the dressing room can't be underestimated.

When you add up all those factors; the lack of time, the dearth of options - the upshot is that Dessie's scope to exert change is extremely limited.

And the 2020 Dublin team will bear a closer resemblance to last year's than it would have, had the season followed a normal pattern.

In the circumstances, that may be no bad thing.

With such limited preparation time between matches, having an experienced group is a huge plus.

In years when we had to play Donegal or Tyrone or some team who posed a specific tactical threat, we might have three weeks to analyse them, devise a way of beating them and then have a full training weekend of running drills and playing conditioned games to hone how we'd execute it.

That won't be available to any manager now.

But the next best thing is having a squad of players, like Dublin's, with high game intelligence, who've faced every sort of tactical kink the best counties in Ireland have thrown at them over the past five years..

That's not to say there won't be changes.

I'd still hope that Seán Bugler plays a prominent role for Dublin this year, but it's hard to see the likes of Tom Lahiff or Cian Murphy starting now, given the limited exposure they've had at this level.

It's too risky to take a flyer on someone new at this stage.

A much more likely scenario is the likes of Michael Darragh Macauley, Kevin McManamon, Cian O'Sullivan, Philly McMahon and Paddy Andrews - the greyer members of the squad - being given additional responsibility, either for their impact in turning big games in Dublin's favour or their experience in seeing them out.

For all the many, many issues Dessie Farrell has had to face since he took over as Dublin manager last December, that sort of backup is priceless.