Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dubs stability stands out as counties battle to keep hold of players

Jack McCaffrey had to leave the Dublin squad due to his decision to work for part of the summer in Africa Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Jack McCaffrey had to leave the Dublin squad due to his decision to work for part of the summer in Africa Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The stability of the Dublin football squad is reflected in the low turnover of players who have not played competitively in 2016 by comparison to 2015.

The departure of Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey may have been a recurring theme so far this season but the personnel change from year to year is the smallest in Gaelic football.

Just three players, Rory O'Carroll, the retired Alan Brogan and former reserve goalkeeper Sean Curry, from the 36 who played in league or championship last year, have not played in any game, in either Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup or Allianz League, in 2016.

McCaffrey had already featured in the early part of the league before his decision to work for part of the summer in Africa was confirmed, forcing him to leave the squad. Even peripheral players like Ciaran Reddin, Conor McHugh, Philly Ryan and Michael Deegan, who saw brief action in the 2015 league, have been recycled in either one of the two competitions so far this year.

The low turnover is in stark contrast to the majority of other counties, most of whom are into double figures when it comes to personnel change from year to year, resulting in an average of 11.

Retirements, emigration, apathy and failure to meet the required standards contribute to constant change but with Dublin personnel are settled with little change under Jim Gavin.


Naturally, the draw of a winning team based in the capital city that plays most of its games in Croke Park before 20,000-plus crowds is huge. Hence Denis Bastick, who looked almost certain to draw the curtain on his career last September, remained on. But the consistency of squad make-up has undoubtedly helped player progress.

Two other provincial champions, Mayo and Monaghan, are also among the counties with the lowest year-to-year turnover, while Kerry, when they get Anthony Maher and James O'Donoghue will bring their number down from 10 to eight.

Fermanagh's progress in 2015 to an All-Ireland quarter-final has resulted in little change; with just five players who saw some action in 2015 not out so far in 2016.

Among those who have been worst affected are Tipperary who have lost significant resources since last year.

From the 21 players who featured in last year's corresponding game against Waterford last year, only 10 will be available for next week's rematch.

Colin O'Riordan has signed a contract with AFL club Sydney Swans, Stephen O'Brien and Seamus Kennedy have switched allegiance to the Tipperary hurlers, while former captain Paddy Codd is unavailable and Ger Mulhaire is injured. All six substitutes used in that 22-point win over Waterford are no longer part of the squad with James Lonergan and Liam Casey heading for the US, Andrew Morrissey retiring, Brian Mulvihill working abroad and Sean Flynn and Barry Grogan unavailable.

Former Limerick and Laois manager Liam Kearns thought he was inheriting a squad of enormous potential but the drain has been enormous.

Of the others among the 17 who played competitively last year but haven't been involved in 2016, Darragh Dwyer and Dean Lonergan, who featured in the league, have also been unable to commit while the remainder have not been brought in by the new management.

Making a commitment has also been an issue in Louth where the turnover, from those who played competitively in 2015, is right on the average of 11.

Long-serving Dessie Finnegan has retired, while Darren and Shane O'Hanlon couldn't commit because of shift work. Derek Crilly and Danny O'Connor have also been unavailable while Peter Kirwan and Owen O'Connor have emigrated. Gerry Hoey and Padraig Smith have had long-term injuries.

Louth's next opponents in Leinster, Meath, have also experienced quite an exodus between 2015 and 2016 with some 12 players who featured in competitive games last year no longer available.

Stephen Bray and Kevin Reilly have retired, midfielders Conor Gillespie and Adam Flanagan have long-term injuries while Davy Dalton, Jamie Queeney, David Bray, Damien Carroll, Shane O'Rourke and Brian Menton all made themselves unavailable at the beginning of the season. Three other players, Ciaran McConnell, Joey Wallace and Mark O'Sullivan, who saw game-time in the league in 2015, haven't been involved this year though Wallace is still part of the squad.

Leitrim's turnover from 2015 is 13 players with most back with their clubs but Daniel Beck and Cathal McCrann have retired while Fergal Clancy has taken a year out due to work commitments.

Irish Independent

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