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Dessie Farrell hampered by various limitations but Dubs boss has aces up his sleeve


Dessie Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

Dessie Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile


Dessie Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

"I've always taken the approach that there are two ways to live your life," reflected Dessie Farrell, just a few weeks into his stint as Dublin manager.

"One, as a timid soul, sort of year by year, month by month, week by week, possibly even hour by hour, as a timid soul. Or the other is to perhaps do the things that frighten you at times."

Farrell was referencing his decision to take the Dublin hot seat for what was simultaneously the best and worst job in football. The best because he was inheriting a history-making group of footballers, who despite the garlands have showed no sign of slowing down. Last year's drawn All-Ireland final bore witness to that. The worst because he was attempting to fill the giant boots of Jim Gavin and was taking charge of a county used to the kind of success that Farrell's playing career will have informed him is so hard won.

So a penny for Farrell's thoughts as Jack McCaffrey stepped away this week. McCaffrey is known for his attacking prowess, as witnessed by his haul of 1-3 in last year's drawn All-Ireland final which saw him score with points with his right foot, left foot and fist, but it also leaves a hole in his defensive options, which Dublin haven't been able to replenish with quite the same consistency as their attacking unit.

There has been a shifting of responsibility year on year, but of the eight recognised defenders that featured in last year's drawn final, six of them saw action in the 2015 decider which kick-started their five-in-a-row run. In attack, only Ciarán Kilkenny and Dean Rock started both of those finals with totems like Paul Flynn and Alan and Bernard Brogan moving on. Paul Mannion, Con O'Callaghan and Brian Howard moved seamlessly into senior roles in their stead. So the loss of one of Dublin's most influential players in McCaffrey is a setback Farrell could hardly have foreseen after a tricky first few months in charge.

He wasn't appointed until December 12, and that late ascension, combined with a team holiday, meant he didn't pull his front-liners together until mid-January. By the time the curtains were pulled down on the season in March, Farrell had been working with his squad for less than nine weeks - not much time to put your stamp on a team.

However, there'll be little sympathy for Dublin. And any lack of exposure to his players is tempered by the fact that he knows the key figures very well.

In Farrell's first year with the Dublin minors in 2011, they were chinned by Tipperary in the All-Ireland final.

A couple of hours later, Stephen Cluxton would produce a seminal moment for the county, but there was something even bigger brewing in that minor match. Farrell's side housed some of the players that would deliver the five-in-a-row, including McCaffrey, Kilkenny, Mannion, Eric Lowndes, Cormac Costello and John Small. When they made amends and went all the way the following year, Davy Byrne and Niall Scully were more established.

Farrell's first year with the U-21s in 2013 was over almost as soon as it got going when Longford turned them over in Parnell Park. However, he'd deliver All-Irelands in 2014 and '17 where he'd work with the likes of Brian Fenton, Eoin Murchan and O'Callaghan, as well as a host of other future seniors.

So getting to know his players won't be an issue. And there are other entries in the credit column too. Dublin will look to have their club action tidied up by the weekend of September 19/20, a week after county panels are permitted to return.

They are aided too by the decision to stick with the provincial system in the revised championship. Dublin won their Leinster fixtures by an average of 17.6 points per game across their five-in-a-row run, meaning they have time to find their feet.

The provincial final is scheduled for November 21 and will coincide with the centenary of Bloody Sunday. They can reasonably expect to reach an All-Ireland semi-final before their mettle will be truly tested by whoever emerges from Ulster. They also know that their run to a sixth consecutive All-Ireland won't go past five games, compared to nine last year.

Expect more twists and turns for Farrell before the year is over.

Irish Independent