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Dublin Versus Kerry live in the Clubhouse this Saturday

posted 30 Jan 2014, 04:49 by Skerries Harps

This week we’re previewing Dublin's game against Kerry and remember the Clubhouse is open from 6pm on Saturday if you’re not going!!!!

DUBLIN:

Manager: Jim Gavin (2nd year)

Captain: Stephen Cluxton

Allianz League 2014: Division I; opener v Kerry, February 1

2013 Championship: Leinster and All-Ireland champions

2013 Allianz League: Topped Division I; Champions

National League Record: 10-time winners

Star Man: Michael Darragh Macauley

One to Watch: Seán George (Ballymun Kickhams)

Injury List: Paddy Andrews (groin, due back in March), James McCarthy (groin, due back in March), Bernard Brogan (osteitis pubis), Dean Rock (knee), Eoghan O’Gara (elbow surgery, due back shortly), Denis Bastick (shoulder), Tomás Brady (cruciate knee ligament – long-term)

Club-Tied: Ger Brennan, Diarmuid Connolly (both St. Vincent's)

Suspensions: Paul Flynn (4 weeks), Jason Whelan (8 weeks)

***

Spring has not yet sprung and already the pundits sticking their necks out and tipping any team other than Dublin to win the All-Ireland title are as rare as hen’s teeth. However, as the record books attest, stitching back-to-back All-Ireland titles together is no mean feat. What they also show is that the Allianz League campaign immediately after lifting Sam Maguire can be just as tricky.

It is well-documented that Allianz League success is a harbinger of All-Ireland glory – six of the last 11 Allianz League top tier winners have gone on to lift ‘Sam’ – but it is also true that failure to perform in the spring competition, especially in the year after a September triumph, is a pretty accurate warning sign of a potential systems failure a little further down the road.

Take Donegal last year as a prime example. After the high of 2012, they were relegated to Division II of the Allianz League last April, with Dublin driving in the final stake with a late equalising point in their Round 7 game in Ballybofey, and subsequently delivered a fairly dismal attempt at defending the trophy they won so impressively the previous summer. Cork in 2011 and Dublin in 2012 are strikingly similar case studies.

The reasons for the phenomenon are complex: diminished appetite, injuries carried over from the previous year and the drawn-out celebrations and inevitable holidays that are all part and parcel of being the champions are among the reasons frequently put forward.

Last year, Donegal didn’t have a squad big enough to cope with the many injuries they sustained to key players throughout the campaign. Dublin, by contrast, look to have an even stronger squad this year and manager Jim Gavin is building up an arsenal of talent that puts nearly every other team in the country in their shade.

Ahead of Sunday’s Allianz League opener against Kerry at Croke Park, Gavin is down 11 front-line players through injury, suspension and club commitments (see panel above), and yet the Dubs remain overwhelming favourites to retain the title they won last year, topping their group with five wins, a draw and a defeat from their seven games before beating Tyrone in the final.

Dublin:

Allianz League Fixtures 2014

Feb 1 v Kerry (h)

Feb 9 v Westmeath (a)

Mar 1 v Cork (h)

Mar 8 v Kildare (h)

Mar 16 v Derry (a)

Mar 29 v Mayo (h)

Apr 6 v Tyrone (a)

Kevin Nolan and Alan Brogan are back in the frame after missing out on most of last year through injury and illness respectively, while the highly talented Cormac Costello also returns after injury problems in 2013. Shane Carthy and Eric Lowndes will be hoping to make an impact in the Allianz League, with places up for grabs due to the huge volume of players out of action at the moment. Seán George from Ballymun Kickhams looks the most likely of the new players to break into the team, having displayed his prowess as a strong-tackling defender in the AIB Club Championship last year.

As well as the litany of injuries, Jason Whelan is suspended for eight weeks and Paul Flynn is also banned for four, ruling him out of the Kerry game, with both suspensions arising from an O’Byrne Cup campaign which yielded wins against Westmeath and Louth before a Round 3 defeat to DCU excluded them from the semi-finals. The likes of Eoin Fanning, Daniel Watson and the aforementioned George all got game time in the competition, increasing Gavin’s impressive options even further.

“I think I have been in and around the panel for five or six seasons and I think it certainly is the best quality group of players we have had,” Dublin forward Paddy Andrews told GAA.ie this week. “Not just in the forwards, but in the 35-40 players we have in and around the panel for the league. We have fantastic players that might not have been in the first XV before with some of the young guys coming through. There’s huge competition.”

Dublin showcased their slick and very attractive brand of attacking football from the off in the Allianz League last year and it will be interesting to see if Gavin will make any adjustments to that winning model in 2013. Last year, Dublin and Mayo looked to be operating at a different level from the rest of the chasing pack and it is hard to imagine that gap closing by much over the winter. Even if teams figure out a system of curbing them, it is almost inconceivable that the Dublin machine could break down like Donegal did in 2013.

With home advantage against nearly all their main rivals – Cork, Kerry, Mayo and Kildare – it is very hard to imagine any scenario where Dublin fail to make the semi-final of the competition at the very least. Whether they can break the mould and go on to make a strong defence of their All-Ireland title remains the big question!



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