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Gilroy firmly focused on bigger prizes as Dubs stroll


Graham Cullen of Dublin is tackled by Offaly duo Karol Slattery, left, and Scott Brady during Saturday’s O'Byrne Shield semi-final at Parnell Park. Photo: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

Graham Cullen of Dublin is tackled by Offaly duo Karol Slattery, left, and Scott Brady during Saturday’s O'Byrne Shield semi-final at Parnell Park. Photo: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

Graham Cullen of Dublin is tackled by Offaly duo Karol Slattery, left, and Scott Brady during Saturday’s O'Byrne Shield semi-final at Parnell Park. Photo: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

WHO cares about the O'Byrne Shield? Certainly not the Dubs, whose players and management don't rate it in terms of putting silverware on the sideboard to proudly display to the grandchildren.

And yet, the humble O'Byrne Shield, born only in 2006 -- Carlow won it last year -- has provided Dublin with the proverbial 'useful exercise' over the past week.

They racked up 6-10 against Wexford on January 16, and 3-13 at the expense of Offaly at Parnell Park on Saturday, which is an encouraging trend this early in the year.

More important, is the 'C' word -- competition. Dublin kept Footballer of the Year, Bernard Brogan, the impressive Eoghan O'Gara and experienced Barry Cahill on the bench and clinically disposed of an understrength Offaly.

They are now set up with a final against the winners of Meath and Laois, who play tomorrow, but manager Pat Gilroy's sights are set on bigger tests.

"Look, it's an O'Byrne Shield game, and it's a great opportunity for lads on the panel to really put it in, and, in fairness, they did that for patches in that match," he said.


"I wouldn't single any fellas out there today. The National League is where we're all focusing on at the moment.

"At this stage, it's about getting as many guys in as possible and having a look at them to see what kind of panel we'll be able to have for the league. Whether it's Meath or Laois we're playing in the O'Byrne Shield final doesn't really make any difference.

"Results like this are going to put more pressure on people who are established. That's what you want. You want that constant pressure on fellas. We had a good bit of competition last year which served us well and that's hopefully going to be the case again this year."

Offaly manager Tom Cribbin fielded a side shorn of nine players through injury and college commitments and another nine from the Rhode squad which lost the Leinster club final against Kilmacud Crokes in Portlaoise yesterday.

In fairness to his players, who were 3-6 to 0-2 down at half-time, they kept trying their hardest to the end, and for Cribbin, it was all about a learning experience.

"We're down a good few players and we can't afford to be without them, but we're learning and this is the place to do it. We're trying a lot of new lads and if you want them to learn, throw them in to the thick of things and give them that experience," he said.

Dublin started at a good pace and moved the ball around well, but Offaly opened the scoring after five minutes when wing-back Ross Brady got a point. The lead lasted only a minute, as Dublin full-forward Graham Cullen, put clear by Dean Kelly, was hauled down by defender Scott Brady for a penalty.

Tomas Quinn duly converted that with a low shot to the corner of the net and two minutes later, Quinn scored a point from play.

Kelly had quite an influence, as he had an assist in all three of Dublin's goals and scored three points as well.

Kelly passed to the powerful-running Kevin McManamon, who fell under pressure of a tackle, but then got up and burst through to score Dublin's second goal in the 11th minute.

The third goal came in the 26th minute when Kelly grabbed possession around midfield from a kick-out by Offaly 'keeper Eoin Brennan and found Diarmuid Connolly in space. Connolly then raced 20 metres through the Offaly defence to slot the ball into the net.

Just before half-time, Graham Cullen looked to have scored a fourth goal from a finely judged pass across the Offaly goalmouth by Quinn, but it was disallowed for a square ball -- and, yes, the ref did consult his umpires.

The scoring margin against Offaly could have been higher if 'keeper Brennan had not twice made fine saves from point-blank shots by Cullen.

Veteran Ciaran McManus got the Faithful County's second point in the 34th minute -- 29 minutes after they had got their first.

Offaly had to wait another 15 minutes after half-time for their third point, again scored by McManus, by which time the Dubs had three more points on the board, scored by Kelly, Declan Lally and substitute Peadar Andrews, who had replaced Kevin Bonner in the 45th minute.

The visitors, boosted by the pace of 19-year-old Clara player Graham Guilfoyle, a half-time sub, and another sub, Sean Ryan, kept working hard and added four more points in the last 20 minutes.

It wasn't much and it was too little to trouble Dublin, who gave a solid display all round, with defenders Sean Murray and Alan Hubbard, Denis Bastick in midfield and forwards Kelly and McManamon looking particularly impressive.

Offaly's Ciaran McManus worked hard, as did centre-forward John Reynolds, while former Dublin under-age player John Coughlan toiled diligently out the field.

Scorers -- Dublin: M Quinn 1-4 (1-0 pen, 1f, 0-1 '45'); K McManamon 1-1, D Connolly 1-0, D Kelly 0-3, D Lally, D Bastick, P Andrews, G Cullen, A Hubbard 0-1 each. Offaly: C McManus 0-3, R Brady, N Dunne (f), N Andrew Graham (f), S Ryan 0-1 each.

Dublin -- S Cluxton; D Daly, S Murray, A Hubbard; D Lally, P Casey, C McKiernan; D Bastick, C Murphy; D Connolly, K Bonner, D Kelly; K McManamon, G Cullen, T Quinn. Subs: A Darcy for K McManamon (31); P Flynn for D Connolly (h.t); P Andrews for D Bonner (45); W Lowry for D Daly (51), D Stapleton for C McKiernan (55).

Offaly -- E Brennan; G Rafferty, S Brady, S Pender; N Spain, K Slattery, R Brady; P Bracken, R Dalton; N Andrew Graham, J Reynolds, C McManus; N Dunne, J Coughlan, K Casey. Subs: G Guilfoyle for R Dalton (h-t); S Ryan for P Bracken (53).

Ref -- J Curley (Meath).

Irish Independent