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Farrell happy with weight of great expectations

BEFORE their battle with Donegal, the Dublin senior football squad sat relaxed in the Hogan Stand taking in the minor game in full.

They were joined by an unusually large crowd that swelled to nearly two-thirds full towards the end of the game. Although they are notorious for being late, the blue masses had decided that the minor semi-final was worth catching.

Perhaps it was the star on the sideline, Dessie Farrell, that hero of 1995 now making his way on the touchline. Or maybe the fans wanted to get to know this exciting young team, who left a trail of scorched earth in Leinster and eased past Cork in the quarter-final.

Much like the seniors, they faced a challenge when Galway looked dominant in that semi-final, but in front of the gathering crowd they brought it under control and won by two points.

Much has been made about the minor team's ability to garner an extra few thousand tickets for the desperate Dubs scrambling for seats, but there is also a need for the county to achieve a national title at this level -- it's been 27 years since a Dublin minor team kept the Tom Markham Cup in the capital.

Much is expected of this team, with a former county marquee forward in charge and, in Ciaran Kilkenny, a young man touted as a future star for the boys in blue.

"Ciaran's a special talent," Farrell said earlier this season. "What I like about him is his work rate, he brings the players around him into the game. It's definitely far from a one-man show. There's lads working hard to get the ball to Ciaran (right) and once that ethos is in the squad it augurs well."

Kilkenny's 0-26 this season has been crucial to the cause and while there is concern that the Dubs' dual stars like Kilkenny, who lost the hurling final two weeks ago, could be tired, Farrell dismissed that theory.

"I honestly don't think there's much tiredness there at all. They're egging to get out there. They'll be well rested, I can assure you."

The semi-final win over Galway was the young Dubs' first real test of character of the year and they passed it.

"Character-building stuff," was how Farrell described it. "The most pleasing aspect from our point of view was that we got the right response."

On Sunday, they face the test of Tipperary, whose underage structures are beginning to produce serious results.

"There are people out there who are not truly au fait with minor football. They assume that Tipperary aren't up to much but I can tell you that the proper students of the game know their true value," Farrell said. "They've been hugely impressive to date."

Irish Independent