Dalton set to continue comeback against Ryan's in-form Lilywhites
DAVY DALTON, a name synonymous with Kildare football, will do his level best to lower the Lilywhites this Sunday.
Confused? Don't be. Davy Dalton, the junior incarnation, will be playing for Meath against the native land of his more famous father.
Davy Snr won an All Star in 1997, in no small measure because of his sterling defensive displays in Kildare's epic (but ultimately empty-handed) three-game saga with Meath. The Newbridge stakes this weekend will be considerably less, but there will be silverware on offer – the O'Byrne Cup – and something more for Meath's comeback kid.
Family bragging rights are not the issue for Dalton (whose dad, after all, has managed the Meath minors). Simply being back on the pitch in a green jersey will be motivation enough, given the injury trials and tribulations of 2013.
At the end of last April, Dalton scored a goal-of-the-season contender in the Allianz League Division Three final against Monaghan, advancing on a solo-run from inside his own half that culminated in a thumping finish to the Hill 16 net. Pure Roy of the Rovers with a Royal twist.
Scant consolation for what happened next, and not just because the dashing wing-back lost: Dalton was forced off with a combination of ankle and groin injuries that saw him miss all of Meath's Championship campaign and all of Summerhill's successful county title run.
It was only during the Leinster club championship that he returned to the fold.
"To be honest, I got two injuries in the one day and one kind of masked the other," he recalled, speaking after last Sunday's O'Byrne Cup semi-final cruise past DCU. I didn't realise until I came back after the ankle injury that I had the osteitis pubis and that was more serious than the ligaments, so that ruled me out for the summer ... it had been building up but that was the day everything went wrong."
He added: "It's a long eight months since I togged out last April or whatever. It's great to be back with the lads, and Micko (Mick O'Dowd) and the management team were very patient with me last summer. Just delighted to be playing."
Next up Kildare. "Yeah, I've a few ties there alright!" he confirmed, with just a hint of understatement. "I lived there till I was 10, then moved from Kilcock to Summerhill. I would have carried on playing with Kilcock for a while till the lads got their hands on me, and then there was no turning back."
He promises that he'll treat Sunday's final exactly as he approached last Sunday's semi-final; that it's just "another game of football". As for the bigger picture, he stresses that it's early days but the January vibes are all positive.
"Things are going well, we've a good mood in the camp, there's a lot of new players and the young lads are really pushing things on," he enthused.
"The depth of squad is considerably improved this year and, honest to God, there's so much competition you can't let up. And that's why things are going so well at the moment.
"Throughout this O'Byrne Cup you can see that nearly everybody's got game-time and there's been no let-up in performance, so that's something we've been really concentrating on."
Looking ahead to the league, he concluded: "It will be a big step-up from last year in Division Two. It's a very strong Division Two this year and we'll relish the challenge. It can only improve our football."