Brian Fenton on Stephen Cluxton, Paul Mannion, and Dublin's transition phase as former stars retire
"No doubt we’re in a period of transition."
All good things come to an end, but Dublin winning six All-Irelands in a row will forever be remembered as a period of complete dominance.
Brian Fenton was at the heart of this, winning all six of these titles, controlling everything from midfield, and only suffered his first ever championship lost at inter-county level at the hands of Mayo, earlier in the summer.
During this time it was Dublin's strength in depth that really set them apart from other teams, as they could substitute players on who are equally as talented as those coming off.
However, with names such as Bernard Brogan, Paddy Andrews, and Michael Darragh MacAuley,retiring, and uncertainty regarding the futures of Stephen Cluxton, Kevin McManamon, and Philly McMahon, this Dublin side are going through big changes.
Speaking at Thursday’s launch of Avonmore Protein Milk’s new Pro Oats product, the marauding midfielder admitted that the capital are probably going through a transitional phase.
"Maybe, there are some names gone to be fair, but there’s a great crop of young lads, and I would like to classify myself as a young lad - but there’s a great crop of young lads there that would fill you with hope, or fill you with energy, and enthusiasm.
"They’re pushing it on in many ways, and I was very lucky, I came in as a 22-year-old, and you come into that, there are already established leaders, already established All-Ireland winners, already established All-Stars, so you can’t not be influenced by them, and by what they’re doing.
"I hope now, that I will be that player, that it’s like ‘okay, he’s been successful or has All-Irelands,’ and I will hopefully have an impact, and set a standard, and set a target for those young lads to hit as well.
"No doubt we’re in a period of transition, the loss was probably a good thing for that because it really reinvigorates everyone, it really reinvigorated me to just really go at it again, maybe a staleness had crept in with the winning, and it was just monotonous, as ridiculous as that sounds, but I think a loss will do more for us over the next three or four years, than if we had won last year again."
Fenton 'hopeful' of Paul Mannion return to county set-up.
One player who is currently lighting up the Dublin club scene, and in the prime of his career in terms of his age and his experience, is Kilmacud Crokes' Paul Mannion.
Despite only being 28 years old, the sharp shooter had opted out of the Dublin panel for the 2021 season, and as his former teammate, Fenton is keen to have him back.
"I’m still hopeful, I whatsapped him the other day and was like, do you want to grab a coffee? Very tactically.
"Hopefully, I mean look at him, he’s top class, he’s proven that with Crokes again this year, he’s still class.
"But at the same time, we all have different goals and agendas in life, we want to do different things. Not that he’s going travelling or anything, but we all have different sort of kicks in life, in many different ways.
"Mine is football and the obsession with that, but he’s his own man, and obviously we would love to have him, there’s no doubt, I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t.
"But you have to respect him as well and it will give a chance to someone new, someone young, and maybe the next Paul Mannion."
Fenton is unsure about Stephen Cluxton's situation.
An even stranger scenario is that of Stephen Cluxton, the Dublin legend who could potentially go down as the county's greatest ever servant, but mysteriously just didn't return to the panel this season.
With no explanation, announcement or official retirement made, the media naturally grew increasingly interested, and Fenton explains how he and his teammates dealt with the situation.
"At the time, when we were aware that he wasn't coming back, I thought it would be a distraction and this big thing. And that was there in the media for sure but inside the group, I don't think it was.
"We're all mature enough and long enough on the road to know that players come in and out. Dermo has come in and out, Jack [McCaffrey], Paul Mannion. They've come in and out in many ways and as the year went on, it certainly wasn't a distraction for us, as much as I certainly thought it would be at the start.
"I don't know, wouldn't it be great to have him back but the fella is almost 40 now. I'm slagging him saying he'll be playing Masters next year.
"I reached out to him for pints and stuff and he's still there, still alive and still a friend but I don't know is the truth.
"We chat all the time, well no more so than any mates. I'm sure I'll see him at a Damien Dempsey gig over Christmas, please God if they go ahead.
"But to be fair looking back, would you fault Evan Comerford? I don't know if you would and he is the most professional athlete you'll come across.
"As good as the keepers were in the All-Ireland series, I'd say Evan Comerford will have numerous All-Stars going forward. He certainly helps me to field when he's kicking it out."