'Dublin can cope with Jack loss but must avoid injury'
Dublin can cope without Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey for the defence of their National League, Leinster and All-Ireland titles but they can't afford to suffer any injuries, former wing-back Paul Curran has cautioned.
Confirmation that McCaffrey would miss the rest of the season, as he undertakes voluntary medical work in Africa before doing some travel, came from manager Jim Gavin after last Saturday's four-point win over Cork - their fourth in succession and their 16th consecutive game in league and championship without defeat, a run that dates back to their two-point reversal against Kerry in Killarney on March 1 last year.
Curran says it is already evident that opponents are testing Dublin's defence under the high ball in the absence of O'Carroll and, with McCaffrey now missing from the wing, it leaves them "vulnerable".
"It's a tough one for us. But if you look at last Saturday evening we are having problems in the full-back line already. Cork saw that last weekend. There was plenty of high ball going in there and they got change out of it.
"But add McCaffrey into that and it's two top-class defenders missing out of a back six. I think Dublin have replacements for them but if they got an odd injury at the back, if Cian O'Sullivan or Philly McMahon or James McCarthy ended up picking up an injury during the summer, they'd be in real trouble. They have replacements but they'd be vulnerable."
Curran, an All-Ireland winner in 1995, appreciates that Dublin have more cover in attack than defence but still feels Gavin has strong options.
"You could move Jonny Cooper out to wing-back, you could play John Small there. Eric Lowndes who played last week as a half-forward but he is better suited to the half-back line. It might be an opportunity to get in there.
"It looks like we're OK and we have cover. But you're still throwing in fellas who maybe are not regulars. They don't have the same aura. For a right half-forward playing against Dublin, marking someone else instead of McCaffrey will at least look a little easier.
"Most wing-forwards are spending their time defending against McCaffrey and McCarthy. So Jack is a massive loss. He's matured into top-class defender, attacker if you like.
"They have a way about them now where they know when to attack and know when to drop off. That's the art of defending in itself."
In contrast Dublin appear to be able to cater much better for absence in attack where Cormac Costello is coming back to form, Eoghan O'Gara is recovering from cruciate ligament trouble, Paul Mannion is back in the frame after his own travels, Kevin McManamon perennially offers options and Conor McHugh and under-21 star Con O'Callaghan offer boundless possibilities.
Curran admits that the loss of two players from an All-Ireland winning defence to travel is different but should not be considered a trend.
"I don't know if you will see too many more. Maybe we're just unlucky this year that two of the best defenders are gone for the summer. I don't think it's a trend. Rory has his three medals he feels that now is the time to go and spend time abroad. Jack is different. It's work-related.
"Both of them will come back," he said. "If Jack was missing a couple of months he'd be in after a couple of weeks. He's naturally fit and fast."
McCaffrey has been part of the Dublin team for the last three years but struggled to reach his best form in 2014 when he lost his place at one stage as Nicky Devereux took over.