Tuesday 24 April 2018

'It will be James, John and whoever it is, the competition will be great': Dubs star looking forward to battle of the halfbacks

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Dublin's second consecutive All-Ireland championship win doesn't require any further superlatives to burnish the achievement, but it is worth remembering that the 2015 Footballer of the Year watched the 2016 decider from the stand in Croke Park.

Jack McCaffrey opted to take a season out from inter-county football this year, but Jim Gavin's men were able to march to September glory once again - in part because Dublin uncovered another young star to replace McCaffrey in the number seven jersey.

John Small, of the Ballymun Kickhams club, formed a half-back trio alongside James McCarthy and Cian O'Sullivan that was every bit as formidable as the 2015 vintage.

With McCaffrey set to return to the Dublin squad in 2017, how Jim Gavin constructs that line of his team will be fascinating to watch.

Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton, speaking at the Irish Independent Sport Star of the Year awards last night, can't wait to see his talented team-mates battle it out in training for a starting berth.

"I don't know, it will be James [McCarthy], John [Small] and whoever it is, the competition will be great," Fenton said when asked about the prospect of Small and McCaffrey going head-to-head for the number seven jersey.

"The panel is so strong. John Small stood in there this year and Jack had such a great year last year. John stood up in the All-Ireland final and got Man of the Match and it was great to see so much competition in the squad."

Midfield could be another area of the team which sees increased competition for places next season. Jim Gavin opted to play Paul Flynn in centre-field in the All-Ireland final replay and many armchair strategists have speculated that the dynamic James McCarthy might be tried there this season in order to accommodate both Small and McCaffrey at wing back.

Fenton's spot in midfield appears secure though, given that the 23-year-old has yet to lose a league or championship game that he has started for Dublin.

"It is insane," Fenton said of his unbeaten record in blue.

"I'm just on the team and it's the team that is winning, but you do have to pinch yourself. I know full well that there are losses coming, no doubt. I'll just have deal with them when they come.

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