Wicklow beat Dublin, Leitrim beat Mayo, Tipp beat Cork, Monaghan beat Donegal . . . football in January
O’Byrne Cup Round Three Wicklow 1-11 Dublin 0-10:No sign of Ciarán Kilkenny around Parnell Park, and maybe just as well, this result perhaps planting the tiniest seed of doubt in his mind whether leaving Australia behind really was the best decision, or else perhaps actually reinforcing it, that he’ll be able to walk on to this Dublin team any day.
No such mischievous pondering for Jim Gavin, however, the Dublin manager viewing this defeat every bit as important as his two victories to date, then announcing Kilkenny’s intention to focus solely on Dublin football, at least for the foreseeable future.
Already booked into the semi-finals, this was Gavin’s chance to test several more players, not just their potential, as it turned out, but also their mettle.
So, after surrendering an early advantage, falling six points down at half-time, and playing out the last 15 minutes with an extra man, was Gavin satisfied this particular Dublin line-up passed that test?
“No, to be blunt about it,” said Gavin afterwards, in the now perfunctory press debriefing.
“We used the game as an opportunity to give players a starting chance to stake a place in the squad for the National League. Maybe one or two did, so to that end, it was still a very, very useful exercise for us.
“But it was down to players not performing on the day, poor decision making. We completely dominated that second half, 15 or 16 scoring opportunities, and only converted four . . to see those guys in that pressure situation, see how they react, you still get a lot from it.”
Wicklow drew level just before the half hour, then pulled clear with a sweet goal set up by James Stafford and finished by Paul Earls, and went into the break 1-9 to 0-6 in front.
Gavin responded with four substitutions, including Diarmuid Connolly, yet his misfiring in front of goal summed up their afternoon, and despite being reduced to 14 men after Paul Cunningham saw double yellow, Wicklow held on, deservedly, to win.
“Happy with the win, yes,” said Harry Murphy, the Wicklow manager, “although in fairness to Dublin, they kicked some terrible wides there in the second half, had us under severe pressure. Dublin weren’t at full strength, either, but playing out with 14 men, my lads all worked very hard, and anytime you come here and get a result you’re happy. . . .”
They only needed two second half points, from Rory Finn and Anthony McLoughlin, to hold Dublin off, helped by Dublin’s poor shooting, and largely absent midfield. Jack McCaffrey had a chance to score a Dublin goal, but in truth they were chasing the game in vain.
After that, what Gavin found himself more quizzed about was Kilkenny’s pending return, following his decision last week to abandon his AFL career with Hawthorn, and for now, it seems, the dual teenager will be focused on football.
“I’ve met with him, went through my vision for the team, and my plans for the senior football team for the year. Ciarán’s priority is his club, that’s a big thing for him, and Castleknock have a big game coming up in two weeks time (an All-Ireland junior semi-final) that he needs to focus on.
“After that, his priority is the Dublin under-21 football team, and the Dublin senior football team.”
Does that rule him out of the Dublin senior hurlers then?
“At the moment yeah. I heard the word compromise being used and it’s not a case of compromising.
“It’s a case of players making their priorities and his priority at the moment, he said, is football. He is keen to play some under-21 hurling as well, I’ve no issue with that . . . .”