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Boost for Pat Gilroy as another star returns to Dublin hurling panel

Joey Boland
Joey Boland
Conor McKeon

Conor McKeon

JOEY Boland has become the latest ‘former’ Dublin hurler to rejoin the county squad this week as Pat Gilroy continues to experiment with both old and new recruits in these early passages of his reign.

However, contrary to reports, The Herald understands that former Limerick hurler, Tom Ryan, is not currently part of Gilroy’s panel.

After news this week that Conal Keaney was back in training after almost three years of inter-county inactivity, Boland’s return is somewhat less surprising.

At 30, the Na Fianna man is five years younger than Keaney but left the squad in the summer of 2016 after his appearances dried up under Ger Cunningham as the Cork native displayed a tendency to opt for younger players.

Earlier that spring, he started the league opener against Tipperary in Croke Park in the unfamiliar spot of corner-back and his last competitive appearance for Dublin came in Páirc Uí Rinn on March 5, as a second-half substitute for Johnny McCaffrey in Dublin’s 4-21 to 2-17 Division 1A victory over Cork.

Ryan, meanwhile, came on as a substitute in Dublin’s hefty defeat to Tipperary in Thurles last Saturday afternoon, but he is no longer training with Gilroy’s currently bloated squad and will not be part of Sunday’s Walsh Cup semi-final with Wexford in Parnell Park (2.0).

native

Having been on the Limerick senior hurling panel since his first year out of minor, Ryan, 25, spent most of 2016 in New York before rejoining his native club, South Liberties, in April of last year.

He has been living and working in Dublin since last summer and transferred clubs to Cuala, with his transfer becoming official last Friday.

Ryan is understood to have trained a handful of times with Mattie Kenny’s team during their Leinster club SHC defence.

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Boland’s return, however, is another interesting development in the same week that Keaney began his bid to resume an inter-county hurling career that commenced when still in secondary school.

It is also noticeable the number of players that Gilroy has brought back into the fold that either drifted away or were discarded under previous management.

Last year, Cunningham fielded a team to play Galway in Leinster that contained just three of Dublin’s 2013 Leinster winning team; Liam Rushe, Ryan O’Dwyer and David Treacy.

Under Gilroy however, Alan Nolan, Peter Kelly, Shane Durkin, Paul Ryan, Danny Sutcliffe, Johnny McCaffrey, Daire Plunkett, Keaney and Boland - none of whom were on the squad last year - have all now been granted the chance to earn a spot on the 2018 panel.

Colm Cronin, Mark and Paul Schutte - all of whom opted out last year - are also expected to be asked in when Cuala’s All-Ireland club campaign ends.

Already, McCaffrey,  Sutcliffe and Nolan have featured for Dublin in either Walsh Cup or challenge matches under Gilroy.

Of McCaffrey - who has lined out in midfield in both of Dublin’s competitive victories over Meath and Antrim this year - the new Dublin manager was effusive in his praise.

“He’s great,” Gilroy stressed. “Fellas like him, with his attitude and his commitment, those guys don’t shirk anything.

“They’re still mad hungry for hurling. They want success and they give their best the whole time. So it’s great having fellas like him around.

“As you can see, it’s January and his appetite for the game is well and truly there.”

Others returnees, such as Durkin, Kelly and Ryan, are set to be given a chance to impress Gilroy over the coming weeks, although it is likely he will stick with the majority of the team that beat Antrim last weekend for this Sunday’s Walsh Cup semi-final with Davy Fitzgerald’s side in Parnell Park.

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