The Dublin footballers possess an embarrassment of riches. Here, we take a look at where a second-string Dublin side would rank against the other teams in the country?
On any given day, anything can happen in a Gaelic football match. The Dublin team are the best on paper but they are not without their flaws. They are beatable and certainly can’t be classified as invincible.
Some of their flaws can be easily exploited. In 2014, their naïve tactics against Donegal cost them dearly. Jim McGuinness’ side lured the Dubs up the field which left them significantly exposed at the back. Donegal hit them on the counter-attack and the Dubs had no answer.
Discipline is another issue that the Dubs have. The likes of Eoghan O’Gara, Diarmuid Connolly and Philly McMahon are liable to moments of madness. Losing a man is something that can cause any team to lose a game.
The Dubs have had weaknesses exposed in the past few season but the boys in blue have managed three All-Ireland titles in five years. They are on course for their fourth in six years and this is largely down to the unbelievable talent they possess.
When you add James McCarthy to the starting fifteen of this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, the Dubs team looks like this;
1.Stephen Cluxton, 2.Philly McMahon, 3.Johnny Cooper, 4.Davy Byrne, 5.James McCarthy, 6.Cian O’Sullivan, 7.John Small, 8.Michael Darragh McAuley, 9.Brian Fenton, 10.Paul Flynn, 11.Kevin McMannamon, 12.Ciarán Kilkenny, 13.Dean Rock, 14.Diarmuid Connolly, 15.Bernard Brogan.
— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) August 6, 2016
The line-up above is unquestionably the best in the country on paper. It is frightening and even more so is what they possess in reserve.
If Jim Gavin had to take his first fifteen out of the equation and pick a second starting fifteen, it would look something like this;
1.Michael Savage, 2.Robert McDaid, 3.Michael Fitzsimons, 4. Kevin O’Brien, 5.Eric Lowndes, 6.Emmet Ó Conghaile, 7.Darren Daly, 8.Denis Bastick, 9.Shane Carthy, 10.Tomás Brady, 11.Paddy Andrews, 12.Cormac Costello, 13.Paul Mannion, 14.Eoghan O’Gara, 15.Con O’Callaghan.
The team above is a frightening prospect. Michael Savage in goal is a proven goalkeeper at club level. The St.Vincent’s man has two All-Ireland club titles to his name.
In front of Savage lies an impressive back-line, considering their strength and depth has been tested due to the fact that Rory O’Carroll and last year’s Footballer Of The Year Jack McCaffrey have left the panel. With a combined total of six All-Ireland medals between them, Michael Fitzsimons and Darren Daly add experience to the back line.
Both Robert McDaid and Kevin O’Brien are both u21 All-Ireland winning full-backs while Eric Lowndes and Emmet Ó Conghaile are huge prospects. Ó Conghaile, who is normally a midfielder sits at centre-back in the role normally occupied by Cian O’Sullivan.
At midfield youth is combined with experience. The ever-present Denis Bastick partners young Shane Carthy in the middle sector.
Up front, the trio of Paddy Andrews, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello would arguably feature on any other forward line in the country. The hard-working Tomás Brady would add a lot in terms of work-rate while Eoghan O’Gara is a target man at the edge of the square. Con O’Callaghan is a prodigious talent in the far corner.
The introduction of Paul Mannion to the fray in this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final highlighted Dublin’s sheer strength and depth. Mannion is a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal footballer and the Kilmacud Crokes man ensured Dublin’s safe passage to the semi-final.
Theoretically speaking, this Dublin second string side could make the Leinster final and an All-Ireland quarter-final. However, this is merely based on potential starting fifteens. In the modern era, the role of the substitute has become so vital and Dublin’s second string side could suffer, in the backline especially.
Realistically, this will never come to pass and nor should it ever happen but it does point to one thing; the amount of high-quality players at Jim Gavin’s disposal is frightening. The would certainly be in the top ten teams in the country.
The Dubs are set to dominate and it is up to other counties to reach their standards.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena