What does a sports columnist write about when there is no live sport to analyse?
Thankfully, my brain hasn’t followed my body into lockdown and during my daily walks – all within the permitted 2km limit – I compose endless columns in my head.
I'm always receptive to new ideas and in recent weeks it has been suggested to me that I should pick my ‘Dream Football Team’ – Gaelic football's version of the Galacticos.
The criteria I used in choosing players was based primarily on their pace, athleticism, fitness, composure, versatility and adaptability.
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I was also looking for leadership and, of course, skill – yet the last commodity is, frankly, not always top of the list of qualities demanded of some county players at the moment.
In terms of forwards, I added an additional requirement – I went for players who are more renowned for their ability to score rather than their capacity to track back, block channels or win turnovers in their own half.
As football is now, essentially, a squad game I selected 21 players to include two replacement forwards and backs, one replacement midfielder and a substitute goalkeeper.
Stephen Cluxton (Dublin); Replacement: Niall Morgan (Tyrone)
There are four standout contenders, Stephen Cluxton, Niall Morgan Monaghan’s Rory Beggan and Shaun Patton from Donegal.
Even though he hasn’t played since the All-Ireland final replay I’ve opted for the Dublin captain and I would also hand him the armband to lead the Galacticos into battle.
No player in living memory has done more to change the way Gaelic football is played.
Cluxton’s leadership, composure, ability to read the game and kick-outs are exemplary and his shot-stopping is top drawer as well.
I’ve opted for Morgan to sit on the bench, because of his superb form in this spring’s Allianz League.
He’s probably the best goalkeeper/sweeper in the business and his execution of long-range frees is extraordinary.
Tom O’Sullivan (Kerry), Neil McGee (Donegal), Eoghan Bán Gallagher (Donegal). Replacement: Mick Fitzsimons (Dublin)
I wanted three players with contrasting attributes; a specialist man-marker, a traditional high-fielding, teak-tough full-back –fielding ability will be now be needed more than ever in the era of the advance mark – and a swashbuckling type of player who, aside from his defensive capabilities, can break forward at speed and link the play.
Kerry’s All-Star corner-back Tom O’Sullivan is my specialist man-marker.
He surprised us all last season, down here in the south-west, by how well he did in the position as he had established his reputation at a wing-back in his minor career.
Up until the All-Ireland Final he hadn’t conceded a score from open play to a direct opponent, while he contributed 1-3 himself.
Though now in the autumn of a great career, Donegal’s Neil McGee is my kind of full-back.
Hard as nails, he is competitive and combative but most of all, he commands a presence around the danger zone and is an excellent man-marker and fielder.
His Donegal colleague Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher ticks all the boxes when it comes to filling the role of a swashbuckling corner-back, who loves to roam forward.
Losing ‘Ban’ through injury was one of the many setbacks that effectively ended Donegal’s All-Ireland prospects last summer.
Dublin’s Mick Fitzsimons is an automatic choice as the substitute as he could comfortably slot into any of the three roles.
An excellent man-marker, he has improved with age and is, arguably, one of the most underrated defenders in the game.
Paddy Durcan (Mayo), James McCarthy (Dublin), Jack McCaffrey (Dublin). Replacement: Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
On the wings I wanted pace, mobility, versatility and an ability to link the play, whereas I prefer what I would call a traditional centre-back ,who stays back and ‘minds the house’ to wear the No 6 shirt.
Strangely enough they are something of an endangered species in the modern game.
Paddy Durcan and Jack McCaffrey tick all the boxes in terms of what they can contribute from the flanks.
McCaffrey gave one of the all-time great individual performances in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final, scoring 1-3, which essentially kept Dublin’s five-in-row prospects alive.
Meanwhile, in the All-Ireland semi-final, Durcan underlined his versatility when he switched to wing-forward and not only kept McCaffrey out of the game but scored 0-2.
James McCarthy is my choice for centre-back. I like his style of play – he’s a physical, mobile and athletic type of footballer. And, boy, can he block up the middle!
Yet the seven-time All-Ireland winner could also have been chosen at wing-back or midfield on this team. What a player.
For the replacement it was a toss-up between Monaghan’s Karl O’Connell and Ryan McHugh of Donegal and I give the nod by a nose to the Kilcar man.
Brian Fenton (Dublin), David Moran (Kerry). Replacement: Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)
I wanted two very different style of players to fill the No 8 and No 9 shirts. Type A is a holding midfielder, who possesses decent fielding skills and doubles up as an extra defender when the opposition have the ball.
Even though he is in the autumn of his career David Moran excelled in this role for Kerry last summer.
Type B is the archetypal box-to-box footballer, who dictates the flow of the game and has the ability to score when he goes forward.
Dublin’s Brian Fenton ticks all these boxes and a few more besides.
For his leadership, strength and composure on the ball, Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea is my choice as the substitute midfielder.
Shane Walsh (Galway), Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin), Brian Howard (Dublin). Replacement: Sean O’Shea (Kerry)
Dublin have provided the template for what is required in this department: aside from pace, athleticism and ability, players must also be able to defend, link the play, instigate attacking moves and score.
Shane Walsh was the country’s form footballer up until the lockdown.
He’s is two-footed, an accurate free-taker, a proven scorer from play and an excellent ball-carrier with bundles of pace. Under Pádraic Joyce he has become a better team player too.
Ciarán Kilkenny has game intelligence to burn, as well as the capacity to fill a variety of roles, dictate the pattern of forward play and score.
Though I haven’t selected a specialist sweeper, Brian Howard could fill the role, such is his versatility.
His physical presence around the field and his athleticism are key attributes as well.
My substitute is Kerry’s Sean O’Shea whose composure, game intelligence and free-taking belies his tender years.
David Clifford (Kerry), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Paul Mannion (Dublin). Replacement: Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)
I spent longer agonising over who would wear the No 13, 14 or 15 jerseys than all the other positions combined. Essentially, I was spoilt for choice. Just look the calibre of the players at my disposal.
I would be the first to admit that an alternative full-forward line of Patrick McBrearty (Donegal), Con O’Callaghan (Dublin) and Cathal McShane(Tyrone) might be almost as effective, while Conor McManus is worthy of consideration as well.
Ultimately the credentials of the trio I’ve chosen are indisputable, with Con O’Callaghan my first sub.
Jim Gavin (Dublin)
Frankly it’s slim pickings. Of the current crop Mickey Harte is the only boss who has won an All-Ireland and that last happened 12 years ago.
Peter Keane managed Kerry to win three All-Ireland minor titles – but at senior level his side failed to win any of the three national finals they were involved in last season.
James Horan is highly-rated but has a lot of big Championship match failures on his CV.
Declan Bonner has yet to prove it at the highest level and though Pádraic Joyce has shown promise it’s too early to judge him.
The obvious solution is to persuade Jim Gavin to come out of retirement.
His ability to empower the players, rather than impose his own game plan ,is one of his least talked about, but most important, attributes.
With Gavin at the helm, I’d defy any team to beat us.