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One youngster really caught the eye in Croker thriller - and he could play a big role in six in-a-row bid

Charlie Redmond


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Seán Bugler kicked 0-3 off the bench for Dublin in the 1-15 to 1-15 draw with Monaghan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Seán Bugler kicked 0-3 off the bench for Dublin in the 1-15 to 1-15 draw with Monaghan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Seán Bugler kicked 0-3 off the bench for Dublin in the 1-15 to 1-15 draw with Monaghan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

First off, all praise is due to two sets of amateur footballers for the entertainment they gave us in Croke Park.

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On my way into Croke Park I watched the Scotland-England Six Nations game and saw professionals struggle to do the basics of their sport in Edinburgh as the weather ruined the game.

But in Dublin, we had a fantastic night’s entertainment in the same horrible wind and rain.

Yes, this was the original game of two halves with Monaghan leading by nine points at the interval and being pegged back by the Dubs in the 78th minute.

People are talking a lot, me included, about young Dublin players trying to show new manager Dessie Farrell that they can contribute something in the blue shirt this year.

Well maybe on Saturday night, Dessie showed a few of the players that he can contribute something.

For it was two of his changes that turned the tide in the second half.

One of them, Kevin McManamon, was old school. The other, Sean Bugler, was part of the future.

Kev Mc used all his experience to pick off his goal. This time it wasn’t his usual storming run from deep, it was a clinical finish, poached from close in that brought Dublin back into the game.

But Bugler really caught my eye. He was used a bit by Jim Gavin last year, but when the business end of 2019 came around, Sean drifted out of the action.

I doubt that will happen this time around. Sean picked off points in the second half and he followed the ball in and went after it hard to set up the Dublin goal.

He looks like someone who might have a part to play in the six-in-a-row, something no one is talking about.

For Monaghan, it was a hard lesson. They almost had Galway beaten in their first Allianz League match and now they have let a point slip here.

But their returning manager Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney will take a lot from this game. His team played well, but just couldn’t resist the surge that ended with David Byrne’s equalising point.

But with three points on the board and two home games still to come in Clones, Monaghan, many people’s choice for relegation this season, can already see safety before them – at worst.

Another couple of wins and they might do better than that.

Dublin won’t worry about reaching the Allianz League Final. If it happens, great, if it doesn’t, then no harm done. There are bigger fish to fry in 2020 than another League title.

Storm Ciara had a little effect on the rugby in D4 in the afternoon.

But by the time the ball was thrown in a couple of hours later on the other side of the Liffey, she had grown in strength and power and was at Monaghan backs in the first half.

Conor McManus' goal in the first minute was massive for the northern side as it got them going and they proceeded to play some wonderful football, kicking points from all angles.

We can easily forget, because they had a poor 2019, that Monaghan were ahead in the 66th minute of the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.

They were that close to playing on Gaelic football’s biggest day.

Never mind McManus, there were class acts for Monaghan in the form of Karl O’Connell, Dermot Malone and the Wylie brothers. They are a top team.

Monaghan midfielder Niall Kearns, who missed virtually all of last season, really impressed me at midfield for the visitors. He was strong and mobile and always willing to get forward.

But he and his team-mates were facing a Dublin side, that, once Paddy Andrews had to go off early in the first period, had four very inexperienced forwards on the pitch.

Now experience only comes with playing games and being out on the big pitch and finding out that inter-county football is just simply a step up from anything you have ever played before.

New Dublin manager Dessie Farrell had to put lads out there and let them learn from mistakes, by taking the ball into contact with strong Monaghan defenders and by taking potshots against the wind.

It was most unlike Dublin to do that, but then it wasn’t Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan or Diarmuid Connolly making the mistakes.

The young lads have to learn somehow and the foul conditions in Croker was as good a place as anywhere to start.

I’ve written here before that a couple of league defeats won’t bother Dublin unduly this spring.

The 2020 season starts for Dublin in mid-July with the Super 8s and it is all about learning and finding players on the way.

Online Editors