Under Jim Gavin, a host of young Dublin stars have made names for themselves. From Eric Lowndes or John Small to Brian Fenton or Niall Scully and to this year’s Young Footballer of the Year, Con O’Callaghan. Gavin has implemented a system that sees Dublin keep on winning, but, more importantly, continue to produce top players every year.
If his team selection habits are to be considered, we could well have another young star coming through soon and possibly an almost mirror-image repeat of O’Callaghan’s meteoric rise to stardom next year in the form of one Brian Howard.
Dublin star Diarmuid Connolly echoed such possibility this week in Dublin GAA fan podcast, Blue is the Colour by Hill 16 Army.
“Keep your eye out for one guy, he is a lad from Raheny, Brian Howard,” Connolly said.
“He came in last year, he was on the U21 team. He is going to come on next year. In the next six or eight months, Brian Howard is going to put his hand up for a jersey.
“He came on this year in the championship and didn’t put a foot wrong. I was actually surprised he didn’t play a little bit more to be honest. Even in training, he is a leader. He isn’t a loud guy in your face or anything like that but he is a leader with the way he goes about his work.
“He is a bit like Con [O’Callaghan], when Con came in. Con would be a quiet enough fella but you knew he was doing the work behind the scenes.”
Taking O’Callaghan’s case as an example; he was a star at minor and under-21 level for Dublin and in 2016 he made his Championship debut with Dublin. The Cuala man came off the bench earning over 30 minutes of Leinster Championship action in 2016 and we all know what followed suit in 2017.
Howard, the younger of the two, has followed in the footsteps of O’Callaghan at underage level too. The Raheny clubman featured off the bench against Westmeath and Kildare in this year’s Leinster Championship. Gavin clearly has plans for Howard, like he did with O’Callaghan.
Howard had an excellent year even before making his Championship debut. The midfielder was one of the stars of Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland-winning under-21s panel and is free to play for Gavin’s side next year as the under-21 grade transitions to an under-20s model.
He is a versatile player too. As well as playing in the half-forward line in his substitute appearances this season, he’s an accomplished midfielder while also previously playing at centre-half-back for the Boys in Blue. A potential midfield partnership with clubmate Brian Fenton could be an option.
The future looks bright for Howard.