Sunday 22 September 2019

Rival bosses face big calls with Murchan and Connolly on frontline to be Blues' bolters

Eoin Murchan replaced John Small as a blood sub in the 58th minute of the drawn game. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoin Murchan replaced John Small as a blood sub in the 58th minute of the drawn game. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Given that the man of the match in the last four All-Ireland senior final replays didn't start the drawn game, and in three cases didn't even feature, there could be a bolter or two in the Dublin and Kerry ranks ahead of Saturday's rematch.

There's a consensus that both counties need to do something different after cancelling each other out the first day and they would be in good company should they throw a spanner into the works.

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Brian Cody famously gave rookie Kilkenny attacker Walter Walsh his championship debut in the 2012 All-Ireland SHC replay against Galway - he took the plaudits after firing 1-3 from play - while Davy Fitzgerald did likewise a year later.

Shane O'Donnell hadn't featured for the Clare hurlers in their drawn final with Cork but wrote his name into GAA folklore in their second meeting when bagging a hat-trick.

Kieran Joyce had barely featured for Kilkenny in 2014 before usurping Brian Hogan at centre-back and picking up the man-of-the-match award with a thunderous display as Tipperary were beaten in the replay.

Mick Fitzsimons did likewise three years ago for the Dubs - he came on in their drawn final with Mayo - before being judged their best performer as back-to-back All-Ireland football titles were secured.

Fitzsimons was nearly pipped by team-mate Cormac Costello, who hadn't featured in the drawn encounter but came on in the 56th minute of the replay and kicked three crucial points from play.

Lightning could strike again this weekend and Jim Gavin and Peter Keane have plenty of options if they choose to spice things up.

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Diarmuid Connolly

What a difference two months could make for Connolly after being turned back at Dublin Airport over a problem with his ESTA form and he could be the one to bring a spark to Dublin's attack.

While much talk has centred on whether or not Bernard Brogan will make the match-day 26, Connolly could be thrown into the starting line-up, or sprung early, to upset Kerry's plans and give the Dubs something different up front.

With his inter-county career looking all but finished up until two months ago - it would be a huge turnaround if the gifted St Vincent's forward was the difference on Saturday.

Eoin Murchan

A regular in the ranks last season following a series of brilliant defensive displays, injury is the only reason why Murchan hasn't been a starter this year for Dublin, but the extra two weeks has afforded him another chance.

The Na Fianna dynamo replaced John Small as a blood substitute in the 58th minute of the drawn game but performed well and remained on the pitch until the end.

He looks likely to start with his blistering pace a massive asset in a full-back line which isn't blessed with speed, while his ability to show for short kick-outs and man-mark, could help tie down a dangerous Kerry attack. Philly McMahon

It was noticeable that in spite of the defensive woes the Dubs went through in the first game, Gavin didn't turn to McMahon.

His vast experience could yet be key, however, and the six-time All-Ireland winner may play a more prominent role, either from the start or off the bench, with the likely introduction of Tommy Walsh a possible task for the Ballymun Kickhams defender.

Tommy Walsh

The great debate is whether or not to start Walsh and if he were to be thrown in from the outset, it could force a massive rejig for Dublin.

Eleven years after winning his sole All-Ireland with the Kingdom and with an AFL career and some career-threatening injuries mixed in between, Walsh is still central to Kerry's plans and was inspirational off the bench the first day.

Dublin simply couldn't handle the towering Kerins O'Rahillys attacker and what Keane does with the 31-year-old will have a major bearing.

Killian Spillane

Spillane lit up the drawn game after his second-half introduction with the Templenoe flyer looking totally at home on the game's biggest occasion.

His goal was the catalyst for a Kerry comeback and Keane will be tempted to see if he can get at a creaky Dublin rearguard.

Jack Sherwood

Gavin White and Brian Ó Beaglaoich are the most likely to lose out if changes are made and having recalled him after an inter-county exile under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Keane may opt for Sherwood.

The Firies clubman has made a big impact off the bench in the last two games between the sides and his versatility means he can slot in anywhere from the full-back-line to midfield.

Irish Independent

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