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12 young Dubs who could make a breakthrough under Dessie Farrell in 2020

Dessie Farrell will take charge of his first game as Dublin boss this weekend.
Jan 9th 2020, 6:05 AM 14,103 18

THE DESSIE FARRELL-era will take flight in Longford on Saturday afternoon.

dessie-farrell New Dublin manager Dessie Farrell. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The new Dublin boss is not expected to have any of the five-in-a-row All-Ireland-winning side available to him for the O’Byrne Cup semi-final which opens up their 2020 campaign. 

The Dublin panel are currently in Bali for their team holiday, meaning Farrell will have a developmental squad at his disposal for his bow as senior manager. 

It’s not an unusual situation for the Sky Blues. For the past three seasons, they’ve operated with experimental teams in the pre-season competition as Jim Gavin left managerial duties to Paul Clarke. 

Some gems – such as Niall Scully, Brian Howard and Sean Bugler – were unearthed during those O’Byrne Cup campaigns.

Farrell will have a close look at a host of potential additions to this year’s squad on Saturday. 

As is the case with any new manager, he will look to freshen up the squad and put his own stamp on things.

The retirements of Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara, plus their ageing defence, could signal the introduction of several talented youngsters from the Dublin production line – many of whom worked with Farrell in the past.

What new players might the Na Fianna native introduce in the weeks and months ahead? 

sean-bugler Sean Bugler during the 2019 O'Byrne Cup. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Peader Ó Cofaigh Byrne is an obvious name to start with given his rising status in the game. Described by his sparring partner Brian Fenton as “an animal” for his performances during training last year, Ó Cofaigh Byrne will be hoping to establish himself as Fenton’s long-term midfield comrade this season.

He rose to prominence as full-back on the Dublin minors in 2017 but the Cuala man’s height (6’6″) and athleticism saw him pushed forward into a midfield role. He’s thrived at the position since then, making his senior debut against Tyrone in the Super 8s last year while he was also named on the bench for the drawn All-Ireland final.  

Michael Darragh Macauley’s extended campaign with Ballyboden St Enda’s means he may be handed some time off for the early part of the league, handing his understudy the chance to make his mark. 

Another potential midfield option is Darren Gavin, who impressed in the early part of 2019 before he was struck down by a hamstring injury. The UCD student could do with bulking up his light frame, but he glides across the ground in a similar manner to Fenton and is a quality ball-striker. 

Dublin remain blessed with attacking options, but four players who could feature more prominently up front this season are Conor McHugh, Aaron Byrne, Sean Bugler and Colm Basquel.

diarmuid-mcevoy-and-aaron-branagan-with-colm-basquel Colm Basquel has been the leading light for Ballyboden St. Enda's this season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McHugh and Byrne were the star forwards on Farrell’s Na Fianna side that should have dumped out Ballyboden in the Dublin quarter-finals last year. McHugh (25) won an All-Ireland U21 crown under Farrell in 2014, scoring 1-6 from play in the final on a team that also included Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello, Niall Scully, Brian Fenton and Jack McCaffrey. 

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The corner-forward, who is currently in Bali with the rest of the 2019 squad, struggled for game-time under Gavin but may find chances more forthcoming under his fellow clubman. The same applies to Byrne, the 2017 U21 Footballer of the Year, a quality player who is comfortable at half-forward or even half-back. 

Bugler showed his ability by scoring 0-3 and claiming man-of-the-match on his first start for the Sky Blues against Tyrone in a dead-rubber last August. The wing-forward didn’t see another minute of action for the remainder of the championship and will be intent on showing his worth during the league. 

Basquel departed the squad last spring after finding opportunities hard to come by and subsequently spent the summer in Chicago. He returned to help Ballyboden land county and Leinster titles, lighting up the attack as their primary score-getter. He also featured under Farrell with the U21s for two seasons, winning an All-Ireland alongside Byrne in 2017.

Another forward worth keeping an eye on his U20 Footballer of the Year Ciaran Archer. While he’s underage for the U20 grade again this year, Farrell could decide to spring the St Maur’s teenager over the coming weeks. His scoring talent is undeniable – Archer hit 10-35 across five games for the U20s on their run to last year’s All-Ireland final.

ciaran-archer-and-sean-meehan Ciaran Archer shoots during the All-Ireland U20 final. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The majority of chances for new recruits could come in the Dublin defence with the likes of Philly McMahon, Rory O’Carroll, Cian O’Sullivan and Mick Fitzsimons now into their 30s. 

Having worked under Farrell for three years at U21 level, Shane Clayton is extremely familiar with his methods. The full-back only featured for a few months in the previous regime, but his form for county champions Ballyboden gives him a decent chance of featuring over the coming weeks. 

Cian Murphy was wing-back on the All-Ireland U21 winning side of 2017 and more recently shone as a tight-marking corner-back as Thomas Davis embarked on an unlikely run to the Dublin county final.

Cian O’Connor has been making a name for himself with fine performances for Kilmacud Crokes and UCD over the past couple of seasons. A wing-back who loves to get forward, O’Connor made his debut during the league and arrived off the bench in the Super 8s tie against Tyrone in August. He’s also capable of playing in the corner, which helps his case given Dublin’s plethora of options on the half-back line.

cian-oconnor Kilmacud Crokes wing-back Cian O’Connor. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Another Kilmacud Crokes defender who could make the step up is Andrew McGowan. He logged minutes in the Dublin full-back line in the 2018 and 2019 National Leagues and was named on the Sigerson Cup Rising Stars team two years ago.

He’s still U20 this year but Kieran Kennedy’s form for Ballyboden on their run to the last four of the All-Ireland series won’t have gone unnoticed by the Dublin management.

He clipped over a stunning outside the boot score against Kilcoo after a neat dummy last weekend. He was named as one of the top 20 U20 players in the country last year and joint-captained Dublin to the Leinster crown and an All-Ireland final appearance. He might be a little young to feature this season but Kennedy certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

In terms of off the field matters, Farrell is likely to confirm his backroom team for the upcoming season during his first media briefing as Dublin manager tomorrow morning.

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Kevin O'Brien


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