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Dublin 'keeper Byrne quits squad, but Farrell returns

DUBLIN football manager Tommy Lyons received some very good and some very bad news yesterday.

The good news is that inspirational attacker Dessie Farrell is set to make a return for the last two divisional games of the Allianz National League campaign.

But Lyons' joy at Farrell's speedy recovery from a knee cartilage operation has been off-set by the shock decision of goalkeeper Davy Byrne to quit the Dublin squad.

The Ballymun Kickhams 'keeper has become the latest high-profile GAA player to retire at a relatively young age, raising further questions about the demands being made on amateur players.

Byrne, 30, cited family commitments and a dip in form as his reasons for opting out of the squad.

"As you can imagine, it was not an easy decision," said Byrne yesterday. "It was really a combination of reasons a dip in my own form, the fact that there are three goalies in the panel, and family commitments.

"It will leave a void, but I am going to stand by it. I have one young daughter and we've another baby on the way this summer, so with work as well, there's huge pressure on time," added Byrne, who works as an accounts manager with Eircom.

"I'm on the Dublin panel since 1994 and I've had seven great years. But it's really getting to be a student's game," he said.

"At this stage there has to be some incentive to keep older players in the game, because, after the first two or three years you're exhausted. It could be in the form of guaranteed team holidays or some tax-free allowance but whatever it is, it's time incentives were made."

Byrne, who battled back after a groin operation last April, has featured in just one game under the new Dublin management the opening O'Byrne Cup game against Westmeath but he insists his departure was "amicable".

Stephen Cluxton, the U21 'keeper who got his first chance when Byrne was injured last summer, is currently in pole position for the number one jersey.

And when Cluxton was unavailable for last Saturday's league clash with Offaly, the management overlooked Byrne and instead opted for Bryan Murphy, a 25-year-old from Beaufort in Co Kerry who has been playing for Kilbarrack club Naomh Barróg since last year.

Murphy starred in Kerry's victory over Galway in the 1994 All-Ireland minor final before moving to America where he spent four years on a soccer scholarship in Boston University.

Team captain Farrell still hasn't played a competitive game for the Dubs under Lyons due to his club commitments with Na Fianna and an operation on his left knee just before Christmas but he expects to return to the squad within the next fortnight.

"The recovery from the surgery has gone very well, and I expect that I'll be back training by the middle of March," he said yesterday.

"Hopefully, I will be available for selection for the league games against Roscommon on March 24 and against Galway on March 31," said Farrell who is currently attending a business seminar in Switzerland.

"My knee had been bothering me since the start of the Leinster Club Championship, so it's great to have the problem sorted out."

Farrell flew to Switzerland last Saturday, so he was unable to attend Dublin's draw with Offaly in Tullamore. But he was a spectator at the games against Donegal and Tyrone and was impressed by what he saw.

"The presence of the new lads helps to freshen things up, and they are certainly blending in very well with the more established players," he enthused.

Commenting on Byrne's decision to quit the panel, Farrell said: "It was a real bolt out of the blue. The news was totally unexpected and I have to say I'm disappointed that Davy won't be around any longer with the Dubs."

Meanwhile, Dublin have decided to delay naming their side for Sunday's league clash with Westmeath at Parnell Park until after tonight's training session because six players are on the treatment table.

Midfielder Ken Darcy is a major doubt after picking up a back injury last Saturday, while astonishingly, no fewer than five players are suffering from calf problems defenders Coman Goggins and Paul Curran, midfielder Darren Homan who missed the Offaly tie, and forwards Ciaran Whelan and John McNally.

Westmeath recall David Mitchell, who missed the win over Cork because he was in Scotland, to full-back in place of David Murphy, and the policy of rotating goalkeepers continues with Cathal Mullin coming in for Aidan Lennon.

Right half-forward Brian Morley, who is carrying a hamstring injury, will have a fitness test later in the week.

WESTMEATH (SF v Dublin) C Mullin; J Davitt, D Mitchell, F Murray; D Healy, K Ryan, J Keane; R O'Connell, D Hughes; B Morley, F Wilson, D Heavin; J Fallon, M Ennis, P Casey.