Gaelic GamesThe Weekend That Was

David O’Hanlon continues to impress for Dublin in Evan Comerford’s absence

Na Fianna club man has started every league game and improved his range of kickouts

Seconds after Meath’s first score of the afternoon in Navan on Saturday, Dublin goalkeeper David O’Hanlon spotted the home side’s high press and immediately recognised their vulnerability.

With the wind at his back, O’Hanlon launched a long kick-out that only started to lose altitude after crossing Meath’s 65 metre line. Brian Fenton was beneath it, facing the incoming ball. Either side of him, two Dublin players took off galloping towards the Meath goal, waiting for Fenton to tap the ball down.

Stretching out in front of them was a huge swathe of open green space, like Cheltenham without fences. Meath were exposed. Thankfully, for the home side, midfielder Ronan Jones contested possession with Fenton and managed to get his fingertips to the ball and steer it away from trouble.

Ciarán Kilkenny, who was one of the accelerating Dublin runners, pulled a kind of “damn it, we were in for a goal there,” facial expression.


It was one of just four kick-outs Dublin lost for the entire game. Of O’Hanlon’s 22 restarts, 18 found a team-mate – including a brilliant first kick-out to the sideline, which resulted in Fenton sauntering through for the easiest of points.

O’Hanlon has started all of Dublin’s league games this season. It says something about his performances that his presence, and Evan Comerford’s absence, has not generated more discussion.

When asked last week about Comerford, Dean Rock reckoned his Ballymun clubmate would struggle to feature in the league.

“He had a bit of a groin operation so he’ll probably be out for the league or until the latter stages of it,” stated Rock. “He had the operation from last year so he didn’t play with us for the club either with Ballymun, so it was just something that was at him and he needed to get it done. He’s on the recovery table.”

And following last Saturday’s game in Navan, Dessie Farrell confirmed Comerford would not be back prior to the championship – though it’s unclear how far away from a return he actually is.

“Evan has been injured and is going to miss the entire league, we’re hoping to get him back for championship,” said Farrell.

Strange to think it’s just over 12 months ago now since Farrell told us Stephen Cluxton would not be returning to the Dublin squad.

That was in January 2022, moments after Dublin had beaten Offaly in an O’Byrne Cup game at O’Connor Park. Of course, by that stage, the conductor of Dublin’s orchestra had long since put his baton down and slipped away quietly offstage left, as was always likely to be the case with Cluxton.

His last game for Dublin was the 2020 All-Ireland final, when he captained the Dubs to victory at an empty Croke Park, just days before Christmas. He never returned in 2021, though the lack of clarity on his intentions – and Farrell’s comments that “he’s not retired, he has just stepped away” – ensured conversation on Cluxton would continue to swirl at the dawn of the 2022 season. So, moments after that Offaly game, Farrell sought to close the whataboutery.

“There’ll be no fanfare or official announcements from him, but he won’t be involved this year,” stated Farrell. “Out of respect to him, we need to let him live his life and we need to do our own thing.”

O’Hanlon was the goalkeeper for Dublin that day in Tullamore, but the heir apparent to Cluxton was always deemed to be Comerford. He started all of Dublin’s championship games as goalkeeper in 2021.

Comerford missed the first round of the Leinster Championship last year, with O’Hanlon getting the nod to deputise. But Comerford replaced him thereafter and finished the year as an All Star nominee.

It will be interesting to see if Comerford now has a challenge on his hands to wrestle the number one jersey back from O’Hanlon.

Certainly, O’Hanlon’s distribution has been impressive and his range of kickouts has also improved.

Against Derry, GAA Statsman tallied that 22 of O’Hanlon’s 23 restarts found a team-mate, while against Cork 17 out of 20 Dublin kickouts were retained. He also made a superb injury-time save from Brian Hurley to deny Cork what would have been a winning goal.

“He has been doing really well and it’s encouraging for us, because obviously goalkeeper is a big part of the game now and you definitely need the personnel and the talent to be able to step up when required,” said Farrell, who would have managed him at club level with Na Fianna.

“David is getting his opportunity and he is taking it as well.”

O’Hanlon came through the Dublin development squad system. He is not a converted outfield player but rather has played as a goalkeeper since underage level with Na Fianna, for whom he is the current senior custodian and was between the posts for them in last year’s county final loss to Kilmacud Crokes.

He was the Dublin minor goalkeeper in 2017 when they won the Leinster championship and he added a provincial under-20 title in 2019.

Hugh O’Sullivan started between the posts in Dublin’s O’Byrne Cup games this year, but O’Hanlon has been an ever-present during the league. Michael Shiel has been sub goalkeeper for recent games.

Dublin face Louth next weekend in what is essentially a fixture to determine who joins Derry in the Division Two final.

Interestingly, the Louth goalkeeping situation has been one of the most talked about during the league – certainly in Division Two anyhow.

Mickey Harte used three different goalkeepers in Louth’s first four league games before finally settling on converted outfield player James Califf, whose contribution in recent weeks has been massive in the Wee County’s push for promotion.

But O’Hanlon’s contribution to Dublin’s campaign has been no less significant and, with summer on the horizon and Comerford having not played all year, it remains to be seen if that impact will merely be limited to the league.