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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020
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23 substitutions, row on the terrace and referee escorted off - Farrell reign enjoys colourful start

The new Dublin manager lost his first game in charge yesterday.

HE’S ONLY WEEKS into the job and already Dessie Farrell is breaking records.

dessie-farrell Dublin manager Dessie Farrell. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The new Dublin supremo took full advantage of the rule introduced in late 2017 which allows unlimited substitutions in pre-season competitions. During yesterday’s one point O’Byrne Cup semi-final loss to Longford he made a whopping 23 in total, which is understood to be a record at competitive inter-county level. 

An early indicator that he’ll be doing things his way, perhaps. 

Some housekeeping to take care of first. Farrell confirmed that long-time comrade Mick Galvin is part of his coaching ticket, as was rumoured in recent weeks.

He won’t reveal the remainder of the backroom team until he informs the main squad next week, but it’s safe to say that Jim Gavin’s logistics man Shane O’Hanlon will be involved too.

Galvin and O’Hanlon were on the Dublin sideline in Pearse Park, as were high performance manager Bryan Cullen and injured goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

Farrell also stated after the game that Ballymun Kickhams goalkeeper Evan Comerford will deputise for Cluxton in the league. 

Now onto the real action.

O’Byrne Cup games are supposed to be sleepy, uneventful afternoons that are quickly forgotten. But this was a surreal sort of day, where two of the biggest incidents to take place didn’t even occur on the field.

In the second-half, an irate Dublin fan lunged at a couple of Longford supporters on the terrace.

Nearby Gardai had to get involved to calm the away supporter, who by then had started ranting furiously about the Black and Tans, among other things.

Then more drama.

At the end of the game, after awarding a few late frees in Longford’s favour, referee Alan Coyne needed an intervention from the stewards to help him safely into his dressing room. 

Coyne exited the field in the same area where streams of Dublin supporters were heading towards the exit and they lined up to verbally abuse the Westmeath man as he walked off.

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alan-coyne-is-escorted-off-the-pitch-after-the-game Referee Alan Coyne is escorted off the pitch after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It’s been a highly unusual way for Farrell’s reign to begin.

He held a meeting with the main squad shortly after his appointment, but they’ve spent the past couple of weeks on a team holiday in Bali with their now former manager Jim Gavin.

Most of the players Farrell has been speaking with and analysing over the past couple of weeks won’t even be part of his league panel.

But with the O’Byrne Cup semi-final fast approaching Farrell had to put a developmental squad in place. It has served as an inconsequential competition for Dublin in recent seasons –  Gavin hadn’t even presided over them in it since 2016.

The earlier start to the Sigerson Cup this year complicated matters further, robbing Farrell of several potential recruits. 

“I spent last week trying to find pitches to organize trial games in bad weather,” he said at his first media briefing on Friday.

Two hastily arranged trial games took place and a squad was picked for yesterday’s trip to Longford. He admitted after the game that he won’t lose any sleep over yesterday’s defeat, given the main squad will return to training next week ahead of the league opener against Kerry at Croke Park on 25 January.

dessie-farrell-heads-for-the-tunnel Farrell heads for the tunnel after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Rather than overseeing both panels and preparing the developmental group for a final against Offaly next weekend, he can now focus on his first week on the training pitch with the Dublin team proper.

“We have to get back to work with the main group quickly,” he continued. “That will be our focus now on the opener against Kerry in two weeks’ time.

“We’ll train and we’ll have a couple of meetings for sure. There’s definitely a lot of work to do. We’re also conscious that certain fellas have miles on the clock as well that we maybe need to look after a little as well.

“It’s going to be an opportunity to blood new players and some fellas that have been on the panel for a couple of seasons now get to see the light of day and get some games.”

He envisions only “a couple” of players from yesterday’s game being retained for the start of the upcoming league campaign. Double goalscorer Niall O’Callaghan, younger brother of Con, and wing-back Cian Murphy stand the best chance of being asked to stick around. 

patrick-fox-and-niall-ocaalghan Niall O'Callaghan scored two goals in Pearse Park. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’re going to have a look at the tape. The intention is definitely to bring a couple of lads forward. There’s a few fellas that weren’t available to us today, playing Sigerson, that will probably be in the mix as well.

“This is about trying to identify the couple of players that we want to bring forward into the squad. This [game] will give us a reasonable assessment of that.”

With such a last-minute squad in place, Farrell was actually concerned his debut as Dublin manager would start off with a hiding against a more experienced and fitter Longford.

“My fear coming down, because we’re going down the pecking order here, that we might not be competitive given where we’re coming from because I know a lot of other counties have a couple of weeks, maybe even months, under their belt at this stage.

“So I was delighted we were competitive.”

It’ll be the last time this year he’ll have such a concern. 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Pearse Park

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