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Training ground battle - where B team beat the A team - set All-Ireland final tone for Dublin

Declan Darcy admits the training game had set a strong tone. Photo: Sportsfile
Declan Darcy admits the training game had set a strong tone. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Dublin football selector Declan Darcy has revealed how last Friday night's team announcement was the toughest, from a management point of view, that they have had to deliver.

The All-Ireland champions left off Niall Scully, introducing Eoghan O'Gara who had lit up a training match in St Clare's, their Glasnevin training base, the previous weekend when the second team are understood to have beaten the first team in a fractious encounter.

But so many others came into consideration that it made for a "very tough night," according to Darcy.

"I thought it was one of the hardest nights we had in a long time. Good news and bad news to tell," he said.

"In saying that we stay clearly in the present. We look at the players' skill sets, but at the same time form is key to us and what we see on the training ground, it has stood to us well and we pick players on form."

That was O'Gara's passport to a first championship start in three years but it was a move that didn't go well for the Dublin management.

Darcy admits the training game had set a strong tone. "Most of the time if we tee them up they'll go hammer and tongs. It was a crescendo because lads were figuring out where they were and trying to make a mark. Fellas were trying to get on the panel, trying to get on to the bus. There was great honesty and they went after it. Niall Scully in the All-Ireland semi-final was playing really well, good young kid. We couldn't ignore him and it reflected in his performance when he played. If you play well in training it carries through."

Darcy played for Leitrim and is now involved with Dublin, providing a stark contrast between the most and least populated counties. But he is adamant that head count alone does not drive success and unless the right people are in place success can't happen.

Naturally, he dismisses any suggestion that the issue of Dublin's population may have to be addressed in an inter-county context.

"When I was playing for Leitrim, it (population) didn't bother me. We were lucky in that we had a really good group of players to compete. That comes in cycles. The cycle would be wider in Leitrim than it would be in Dublin. But now I'm involved with Clan Na Gael Fontenoys, a small club, 600 or 700 kids competing against the likes of Kilmacud Crokes and Ballyboden who would have three or four times the size of us.

"But when we play against them, just because we have a bigger population it doesn't mean they are any better than us. Yes, they might beat you overall because of that size piece but it doesn't really factor into it too much. Everyone has to look after what they have.

"In Leitrim, it was a good asset to have a small group to work from. I remember the Offaly hurlers, they had a small group but yet they were very effective because they were a tightly knit group, like a good club team. If you get that right with a good group of players I think it is very effective. Year in year out, generally population will drive it a little. But if you don't put the hard yards into the coaching and have the right people involved, it doesn't matter whether you have a million people or 100 people. The club I was involved in with Leitrim we had 250 people and still we could compete with the best and bigger clubs because of the coaching and the thing was right."

Darcy feels the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Kerry has provided the bedrock for their ability to see out tight finishes: "We were down four or five points and won by seven. It was staggering what they can do."

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