Monday 19 March 2018

Savage gets chance to stake claim

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THREE-TIME All Star goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton is out of Dublin's starting line-up for the first time this year for tomorrow's league clash with Mayo.

But manager Pat Gilroy said his surprise omission had nothing to do with Cluxton's uncharacteristic high-ball error which yielded a goal to Monaghan in last weekend's close shave in Clones.

"Stephen has been very solid in all the games so far, but it's important that if anything happens to him that Michael (Savage) has experience of playing in Croke Park and this is a great opportunity for him to get that," the Dublin boss said.

Only Cluxton has manned the posts since Dublin's O'Byrne Cup opener this year, but Savage (24) was part of their 'rotation policy' last year.

He won a club All-Ireland with St Vincent's at HQ in 2008 and also played there previously with the Dublin U-21s, but tomorrow marks his first game there in the county senior jersey.

Despite Alan Brogan's good performance off the bench last week, it is the younger of the three Brogan brothers, Paul, who gets what will be his first league start under the current management.

Brogan comes in for the injured Ross O'Carroll (hamstring) at corner-back, while U-21 star Darragh Nelson, who also came off the bench in Monaghan last week, replaces the injured Declan Lally (calf strain) at wing-back.

All three changes are in defence and Gilroy made it very clear yesterday that his current starters are very much the men holding the jerseys and that Dublin's big names will have to battle hard to displace them.

Of the side that started last year's All-Ireland semi-final, only three -- Ger Brennan, Michael Darragh Macauley and Bernard Brogan -- start tomorrow.

"Last year was last year, it's gone, it's history; it's what's happening now and who's playing well now that matters," Gilroy stressed.

"It's as simple as that and, at the moment, you couldn't justify leaving out any of those fellas (in the current team)," he stressed, while admitting that Alan Brogan and Bryan Cullen are both pushing hard."

Long-time cruciate victim Paul Griffin is expected to be back among the subs tomorrow after coming through a club game and several internal training matches.

Mayo manager James Horan has made a massive seven changes to his side after last week's loss to Armagh, including dual star Keith Higgins, who goes straight back into the team on his return from Australia.

Rob Hennelly is back in goals, Richie Feeney replaces Peadar Gardiner in defence, Ronan McGarrity and James Kilcullen replace Tom Parsons and Jason Gibbons in midfield and Aidan O'Shea (from U-21 duty) and Alan Freeman (from a hand injury) return to strengthen the full-forward line.

With Mayo balanced precariously above the drop zone, Gilroy is expecting a tough battle. "During last year's league they were one of the strongest teams we played.

"I don't know what happened to them during, and after, the league final, it was totally out of character.

"But I think that was a blip because they've a lot of good players and seem to have a bit of confidence back," he said.

DUBLIN -- M Savage; D Daly, S Murray, P Brogan; P Casey, G Brennan, D Nelson; D Bastick, B Cahill; P Flynn, K McManamon, MD Macauley; T Quinn, D Connolly, B Brogan.

MAYO -- R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, C Barrett, K Higgins; R Feeney, G Cafferkey, K McLoughlin; R McGarrity, J Kilcullen; A Campbell, A Dillon, A Moran; A O'Shea, A Freeman, J Doherty.

Irish Independent

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