GAA | 2 weeks ago
No room for Jack McCaffrey in Dublin's no-nonsense starting 15
They mean business

We're a long way from the O'Byrne Cup now.

Inter-county GAA is back and you better believe that the All-Ireland champions are preparing for a fifth successive assault on the national league title right from the very off.

Jim Gavin has named his side to take on Cavan in Breffni Park and there are just five changes from the team that started the All-Ireland final replay against Mayo in October.

Johnny Cooper, Cian O'Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Paddy Andrews and Diarmuid Connolly are missing from that victorious starting 15 that secured back-to-back Sam Maguires but, in their places, they're not exactly doing a bad job in filling the voids with the following names:

  • David Byrne
  • Eric Lowndes
  • Michael Darragh MacAuley
  • Cormac Costello
  • Eoghan O'Gara

It was MacAuley and three-point Cormac Costello who helped change the game in 2016 for the champions and the selections both show-off Dublin's strength in depth but also their intentions.

On SportsJOE's GAA Hour podcast, both Colm Parkinson and Steven McDonnell debated if such stars of the capital's camp would be up to pitch this early in the season given that they didn't feature in the pre-season games but Gavin has placed his trust in his reliables for the trip to Division One's new boys.

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"If they're not physically there, lads..." Parkinson warned on The GAA Hour, "I remember from my own experiences with Laois, if you are hitting the first game at an intensity that, let's say the like of you [McDonnell] in Armagh, you might not be taking the league that seriously and we could beat you in the league but not in the championship.

"We beat you in a league semi-final in 2003 and in 2002 as well but then the championship is a completely different ball game. It all depends on who's targetting the league.

"When I see quotes from Galway and Tyrone and Kerry, 'we're hitting this league...' and, when you see that, you know they're on a different level from a team that's not making those kind of noises."

With 2015 Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey returning to the fold after a year away, the options are endless for the Dublin management team but the wing back's introduction into the starting side was stalled in the O'Byrne Cup because he was representing UCD.

Whilst fans in the capital might be looking forward to seeing the return of their aggressive, their speedy, their direct and no-nonsense defender, they'll rest easy in the knowledge that Brian Fenton is back in the team and the formula is simple when the midfielder lines out in league or championship: Fenton plays... Dublin don't lose. Ever.

Division One fixtures

Mayo v Monaghan (Saturday, 7pm)
Tyrone v Roscommon (Sunday, 2pm)
Donegal v Kerry (Sunday, 2pm)
Cavan v Dublin (Sunday, 2pm)

As Congress prepares to vote against the wishes of the playing population and introduce the 'Super Eight' quarter-finals, Wooly chats to CPA treasurer Anthony Moyles, Liam Kearns, Lee Keegan and Steven McDonnell. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.

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Dublin GAA, Jack McCaffrey