Dublin boss Jim Gavin without three of his 2018 All Stars for trip to Clones this weekend
DUBLIN will be without at least three of their 2018 All Stars for Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 opener against Monaghan in Clones (2.0).
James McCarthy will play no part in the early rounds of the competition as he recovers from surgery while Footballer of the Year Brian Fenton and fellow nominee Ciarán Kilkenny will be late-comers to Dublin’s spring campaign after they extended their stint abroad following the recent team holiday.
McCarthy, 28, underwent keyhole surgery on a nagging leg injury back in
“I’ll maybe miss the first league game or two but I’ll definitely be back early in the season,” he predicted a week after going under the knife.
“It’s just one of those niggly things that you have for a couple of months,” he explained.
“If you’re able to get by with it, you might as well try to put it off.
“Obviously you don’t want to have an operation, because you’ll be rehabbing, but it was just not an option this time.”
Fenton and Kilkenny meanwhile, stayed on in America and Australia after the rest of the travelling party on Dublin’s recent team holiday came home.
Kilmacud Crokes duo Cian O’Sullivan and Paul Mannion both nursed hamstring injuries during their club’s run to last year’s Leinster club final and may now be rested for the earliest part of Dublin’s 2019.
O’Sullivan, who was married in December and forewent the team holiday, indicated his eagerness to return to the Dublin team “as early as possible” this year but Jim Gavin is likely to veer on the side of caution with the man who limped out of last year’s All-Ireland final with a hamstring injury.
Their collective absence may force Gavin to select a less experienced line-up for Sunday than is customary during his reign.
This year will be the fifth time that Jim Gavin’s Dublin have started the league as All-Ireland champions and on each of the four previous occasions, they have won their opening game.
Against Kildare in Croke Park last year in Dublin’s seasonal opener just two weeks after returning from South Africa, Gavin fielded nine of the team that would go on to start last September’s All-Ireland final.
A year previously, when they began the league in Breffni Park, ten of their 2017 All-Ireland winning fifteen started against Cavan.
Of last year’s All-Ireland final team, only Con O’Callaghan and Brian Howard have so far been involved in the first round of this year’s Sigerson Cup.
Howard is expected to line out for DIT again today when they play Athlone IT in Grangegorman while O’Callaghan’s UCD are not in action again until next Wednesday, when they face the winners of DIT/AIT in round 3.
O’Callaghan could then, be in line to make his first start for Dublin in a league game when they play Monaghan in TG4’s live Sunday afternoon match.
A starter in attack in both of Dublin’s last two All-Ireland winning campaigns, O’Callaghan’s involvement with Cuala in their back-to-back All-Ireland club hurling successes has limited him to two brief cameos in the league.
He made his senior debut against Kerry in the 2016 league opener in Croke Park as a late substitute for Mannion while last year, he appeared as a second-half replacement for Michael Darragh Macauley in Dublin’s final victory over Galway, just eight days after Cuala beat Na Piarsaigh in Portlaoise.
How deep Gavin dips into this year’s O’Byrne Cup panel in search of fresh talent remains to be seen.
Seán McMahon, Seán Bugler, Darren Gavin and Robbie McDaid were among those who impressed over their two games in the competition although there have been no retirements from last year’s All-Ireland winning panel.
Paul Flynn has already committed to another year having played no part in last year’s final victory over Tyrone and recently, assuming the role of CEO of the Gaelic Players Association.
Similarly Bernard Brogan hinted in the off-season that he would return despite not making last year’s final
match-day panel after completing an accelerated return from a cruciate ligament injury.
Meanwhile, Monaghan defender Ryan Wylie admitted there was mitigation attached to his team’s victory over Dublin in Croke Park last year.
Monaghan’s 2-12 to 0-17 win in the final round of the league on March 25 was Dublin’s only defeat in either league or championship in 2018 although as Wylie acknowledged, Gavin’s team had already secured a place in the competition’s final at that stage.
“They’re unbelievable, there’s no point saying otherwise,” Wylie stressed.
“You see (people) coming out saying ‘they have weaknesses here, they have weaknesses there’.
“I don’t really think they have anything at the minute.
“I suppose that’s just our job to keep trying to get better and better, and try close it some way.
“We haven’t played well against them in the championship,” he conceded.
“We got one over them in the league but I don’t think they are obviously too worried about that.
“They are the benchmark, you are nearly basing everything on them and trying to just get that inch closer, that extra couple of per cent.”