Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# Prospects
Will the next Niall Scully please stand up?
A number of talented fringe Dublin players will be hoping to impress Jim Gavin in the O’Byrne Cup tonight.

11 MONTHS AGO, Dublin’s third string dismissed Louth by nine points to lift the O’Byrne Cup.

Ciaran Reddin lifts The Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Interim boss Paul Clarke led the developmental Dubs to four wins out of five in the pre-season competition, as number of players put their names forward for Jim Gavin to consider in the 2017 league.

Following the success last January, the 1995 All-Ireland winner said he was optmistic “eight or nine” players would see game-time in the National League under Gavin.

As it happened, Clarke was spot on. Nine players from that O’Byrne Cup winning side made competitive appearances for Dublin during the year.

Niall Scully won man-of-the-match that day against Louth and went on to enjoy a breakout campaign for the Sky Blues, featuring in every league and championship game that year – including the All-Ireland final.

Niall Scully Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Evan Comerford made the bench for the September victory over Mayo, and Gavin looks to be grooming him to take over from Stephen Cluxton when he eventually decides to call it a day.

Both Conor McHugh and Brian Howard featured as substitutes in the championship for Dublin, while Ciaran Reddin, Colm Basquel, Jason Whelan, Emmet Ó Conghaile and Conor Mullally all made at least one appearance in the league.

Clarke takes charge of Dublin for the 2018 version of the O’Byrne Cup, and they’ll open their campaign against Offaly in Parnell Park tonight.

He presides over a much changed Sky Blues squad, with only a handful of survivors from the 2017 campaign.

“It’s nice to be back involved and asked,” says Clarke. “It’s a very fresh group of players, we only have a couple really from last year’s squad that are with us this year.

“The likes of Brian Howard played a bit of football with us last year and Colm Basquel so it’s nice to have one or two of those to be back with us. But it’s just as good to have some new faces. We’ve very few from last year.

“There’s no method to it. You’re looking at players who finished their club scene really well, up to league semi-finals and finals. And you’re obviously looking at the end of the championship which was October, November and possibly then one or two guys who were out of U21 as it was last year and are probably in that limbo area. We’ll get them in and its nice to have them.”

pjimage (1) Inpho Colm Basquel, Aaron Byrne and Brian Howard Inpho

One youngster who looks capable of making the step-up is former U21 star Aaron Byrne. The Na Fianna talent kicked 2-1 in the recent challenge game against the Dubs Stars and looked like a tremendous prospect in attack.

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“Aaron is a very fine footballer,” says Clarke. “He’s come through, he was U21 Footballer of the Year last year. It’s a great plus to have him on board.

“His skill levels are really high, he looks very comfortable on the ball and travels at pace. He doesn’t look like he’s moving (fast), but he’s flying past guys. It’s great to have him, very nice kid.”

Howard, who was tipped by Diarmuid Connolly as one to watch in the coming season is another player who’ll be hoping to grasp his opportunity this month.

Colm Basquel, an All-Ireland U21 winner with Dublin this year and a 2016 club All-Ireland champion with Ballyboden, and Killian O’Gara, younger brother of senior forward Eoghan, are two more attacking players likely to be in contention for league minutes if they perform over the next couple of weeks.

“Colm is a great footballer and it’s great to have him around. Killian (O’Gara) we would have looked at him at the latter part of last year’s competition, he even came on in the final. He’s a good talent and a really good footballer.

“It’ll be nice to have him around. He gives you a great dimension, he’s a very physical sort of player with high skill levels. Just hope that he brings a good attitude to it as well.”

  • Dublin v Offaly, Bord Na Móna O’Byrne Cup, Parnell Park, 8pm

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