For any other team in the country, the news that a player of Paddy Andrews’ caliber is to be ruled out of their upcoming Championship opener this Saturday would be worrying. Not for Dublin.
The All-Ireland champions don’t have that crippling lack of depth, that dependence on a mere one star man or the insecurities that come with both of these symptoms leading to almost inevitable failure.
The news comes in the wake of Jim Gavin’s side taking a few days to prepare for their first championship game outside Croke Park since 2006, also playing a training game in Nowlan Park last Saturday to familiarise themselves with their surroundings.
The news comes as Dublin’s position as a marketing juggernaut grows ever more secure with their new-look jersey and merchandise set to become the GAA’s biggest seller ever. The Dublin brand is a force to be reckoned with in its own right.
But most importantly, this news comes, almost ironically, with open arms. Paddy is very much a star forward in the team, a starter in September’s triumph, he radiates with confidence and has proven a worthy partner for Bernard Brogan in the full forward line, but he is not key.
Of the six forwards that started last year’s All Ireland Final, every one of them is fit to play this week (except Andrews). Now add Kevin McMannamon, Cormac Costello, Eoghan O’Gara, Paul Mannion, Tomas Brady, Conor McHugh and now Con O’Callaghan to the mix after Under-21 duty.
The truth is that not one player in the Dublin team, never mind Paddy Andrews, is irreplaceable. Losing arguably the best full back in the country Rory O’Carroll? No problem, David Byrne breaks into the team and the defence looks as solid as ever.
The 2015 Footballer of the Year chooses to prioritise his studies over football? No worries, we have a three-time All-Ireland winner in Fitzsimons to fill the void, or even Under-21 All-Ireland winners Eric Lowndes or Kevin O’Brien if needs be.
The professionalism of the management and players is what has made this team great. Preparation is not overlooked, opponents are not disrespected and not a single detail is left untouched. Gavin is well aware of the importance of this game. This entire team have never played summer football outside the confines of HQ and he knows that familiarising his players with the surroundings was key.
In all honesty I think Dublin will struggle at first. If you perhaps glance at results as they come through on Saturday night it may look comfortable but the players may be far from it. The confined crowd and tighter pitch gives Laois a chance to hit the ground running as Jim Gavin’s side are more likely to start slow and grow into the game.
However, Dublin won’t lose. They could play any of the 30 players (at my count) at their disposal and still win because of the depth they possess, their professionalism, experience and management team, which would beat any other county in the country with ease, as they have proven in recent years.
I don’t see this changing anytime soon and with the emergence of the Dublin brand as a financial powerhouse, it may continue for quite a while.
Gavin Quinn, Pundit Arena
The latest episode of The 16th Man GAA Podcast is now available to review, with plenty of discussion and debate about this weekend’s busy Championship schedule.