Comerford's first start goes off without a hitch but Cluxton set to return by Super 8s

Bernard Brogan is unlikely to see any action in the Super 8s according to Jim Gavin.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

DUBLIN MANAGER JIM Gavin says captain Stephen Cluxton will return from injury well in time for the Super 8s, which begin for Dublin in Croke Park on the weekend of 14/15 July.

Stephen Cluxton Stephen Cluxton arrives before the Leinster final against Laois Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cluxton was named to start against Laois but didn’t tog out for the Leinster final, which Dublin won comfortably. Instead he watched from the stands as Evan Comerford enjoyed a comfortable afternoon between the posts on his first championship start for Dublin.

Gavin said the decision not to start the Parnells stopper was made “just before the game,” although Cluxton didn’t take any part in the warm-up and Andy Bunyan took his place among the substitutes as their back-up keeper.

“Stephen had declared himself fit during the week and we had to give a team in so we were going to give him every chance,” Gavin said afterwards.

“Just ultimately it comes down to, obviously, the management team to make that call, what’s best for the player and for the team.

“I thought Evan was exceptional, I thought he did really really well. Again it’s something we are not surprised with because he is playing so well in our games in training, so hats off to him.”

Asked if Cluxton would be fully fit for Dublin’s next game in three weeks, Gavin replied: “He will be, yeah.”

Evan Comerford celebrates with  Jim Gavin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin retained possession on 19 of Comerford’s 23 kick-outs, with a restart to Johnny Cooper inside the D – which resulted in a throw-up by the referee – and a poor ball to Michael Fitzsimons that was intercepted by Donie Kingston, the only real errors made by the 20-year-old Ballymun netminder.

Comerford was allowed to go short on the vast majority of his kick-outs and Laois boss John Sugrue explained after the game why they didn’t pressurise his restarts more.

“I think you can look at that in any number of different ways,” said Sugrue. “It depends on what your viewpoint is on kick-out possession.

“To a great degree you press very high and you might be more open at the back. It depends what way you look at a kick-out strategy.

“We had considered it (pressing up on kick-outs), but he is not a bad keeper.”

On a day where he collected his 15th major trophy as Dublin manager, Gavin was critical of the Super 8s format that leaves 24 counties idle by mid-July.

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“To be very honest we haven’t put much thought into it, obviously now we’ve a bit of time to do so. There will be fantastic games, that’s for sure.

“On the broad concept of it, there’s eight teams that’ll qualify for it. On the isle, there’s probably 24 other teams looking in going, ‘That’s a nice party, it would be nice to be part of it.’

“I don’t know what the leadership of the GAA, I don’t know what their vision is for the end of this. It’s the start of July, obviously there are another round of games in the qualifiers I understand, to see who makes the (Super 8s).

“But obviously a lot of teams will have finished their championship by mid-July. I’m not going to make too much of it now, it’s something to reflect upon post-season.

“From a Dublin perspective, we’re just going to focus in on the three games we will have and try and do our very best in each of those games individually.

“We’re just delighted to qualify and that’s all we can do. There’ll be some fantastic teams there and you’ll have eight really good strong teams and there will be some great games I’m sure.

Barry Cassidy shows John Small a red card Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’ll celebrate tonight, that’s for sure, with our family and friends. Later on in the week we’ll take time out to reflect on today’s game and learn from it, hopefully, and get ourselves really for the next challenge.”

The eight-in-a-row Leinster champions will be without John Small for their next game after he was red carded for a strike on Evan O’Carroll.

“My initial reaction was that it was just a clumsy challenge,” said Gavin of the incident.

“I don’t think there was anything malicious in what John did. Surprised to see that he went, maybe the linesman said something to the referee I’m not too sure, but I was surprised he was sent-off for that challenge.”

On the return to training of ACL victim Bernard Brogan this week, Gavin said he’s” very reluctant” to put a date on any potential playing return.

He did state they’d need to reach an All-Ireland semi-final before the St Oliver Plunkett’s Eoghan Ruadh forward would make his comeback, meaning he’s unlikely to see action in the Super 8s.

In addition, Gavin stated regular centre-back Cian O’Sullivan “picked up a little knock during the week.” Stand-in captain Johnny Cooper occupied the number six role in O’Sullivan’s absence yesterday.

“We probably could have played him if we had to today,” he said. “Cian was ready to play, but we decided in the context of the game that we’d move onto the next one for him.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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