IT’S ONLY THE second round of the league, but already Dublin’s clash with Kerry on Saturday night has taken on major significance.
For both counties, a failure to win their opening game of Division 1 leaves obvious room for improvement.
Kerry stuttered to a draw with Kildare in Newbridge yesterday, going the last 16 minutes without a score. Dublin’s five-point defeat to Armagh on Saturday night could easily have been by more such was the nature of their flat performance.
Jack O’Connor’s team will see the tie at Austin Stacks Park as the perfect opportunity to stick the boot into a Dublin team that endured their second consecutive defeat in Croke Park.
Outside of James McCarthy, who was suspended, Dessie Farrell doesn’t expect any of his missing front-line troops to return in time for the trip to Kerry, where Dublin have failed to win since 2013.
Con O’Callaghan, Paddy Small, Colm Basquel, Jonny Cooper, Mick Fitzsimons and Robbie McDaid sat out the game against Armagh due to injury.
Younger prospects like Peadar O Cofaigh Byrne and Ciaran Archer were also absent.
Worryingly, they lost Aaron Byrne and Cormac Costello to injuries in the first-half, further depleting their options.
“There are a few of them carrying knocks and niggles and that kind of thing, but hopefully we’ll get those tidied up over the next couple of weeks and get a clean bill of health again,” said Farrell.
“We picked up a few there (against Armagh), which was unfortunate but anyway that is the nature of what we are involved in.”
Asked if any would be in line to return for the Kerry game, he replied: “Probably not, no.”
If nothing else, the looming threat of the Kingdom provides the opportunity to awaken Dublin from their slumber. Nothing quickens the pulse of a Sky Blue footballer than the sight of the green and gold jersey.
“This year’s National League is highly competitive, any league points accrued will be hard fought and hard won, and that’s where you want to be, it’s great for the game, it’s great for the spectators and supporters and everybody else.
“For us it’s all about preparation and trying to do the work we need to do with a view to April, May coming around and trying to be in a good position at that point in time.”
The energy and firepower normally associated with Dublin was strangely absent at the weekend. They scored just 1-8 from play, were turned over countless times and their shooting was highly inefficient.
The sight of Brian Fenton hitting two wides and dropping another short summed up their struggles.
“Disappointing we had so many wides, ball dropping short, so definitely the shooting efficiency wasn’t where we want it to be,” said Farrell, “that’s obviously something we’ll take to the practice ground and have a conversation about.”
Above all it was Dublin’s unwillingness to give early ball into their forward line and their patient possession game that would have frustrated supporters.
The Na Fianna man admitted Dublin’s focus remains on the championship, which kicks off on 30 April against the winners of Wexford and Offaly.
“Obviously you want to be competitive in every game, but at the end of the day – and this isn’t to disrespect any competition, but everyone has their sights set on what’s going to happen in the summer.
“For us we’re involved in that process, trying to build something that will be highly competitive come April-May.”