In almost every one of Dublin’s five Championship winning seasons in a row, Jim Gavin graced the teamsheet with a new face. It started with Brian Fenton in 2015. Then, the likes of Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully, and Brian Howard came through the ranks. This sort of talent pool is what makes Dublin so good. No matter how secure a player seems to be in the side, there is always someone younger, and often hungrier, chomping at the bit. Ahead of the 2020 Championship, the candidates for Dublin’s new breakout star have been auditioning.
Those who set the Standard
Brian Fenton was the one who started this trend all the way back in 2015. Fenton started in midfield in a National League against Monaghan. Then, an early goal put his name on the map and he has never looked back.
Next, in 2016 Davy Byrne appeared among the full-back line and couldn’t be displaced.
After that, Dublin’s third All-Ireland on the trot announced Con O’Callaghan’s arrival to the big stage. While O’Callaghan took the headlines, another fresh face was waiting in the wings in Niall Scully.
In 2018, Niall Scully got his chance and hasn’t left the term since. Likewise, Brian Howard came to the fore in 2018. All of a sudden, two wing-forwards had come out of the blue to replace Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly. Like clockwork, the conveyor belt threw out whatever Jim Gavin needed.
2019 was perhaps the first year that Dublin’s primary 15 was entirely made up of household names. However, Eoin Murchan still emerged as a breakout star. But, he had also graduated to the senior team in 2018. Dublin’s ‘baby-faced assassin’ remained largely out of the spotlight until his goal in the 2019 replay against Kerry.
Meanwhile, plenty of players have made names for themselves without ever becoming a staple of the first 15. For example, Cormac Costello, Darren Daly, and Evan Comerford would be guaranteed starters in most counties.
Now, youngsters like Ciaran Archer, Conor McHugh, Aaron Byrne and Sean Bugler do not lack talent. But, they are still to displace any of the forwards currently in place.
Ahead of the 2020 Championship, we are left to wonder ‘who is Dublin’s next breakout star?’
Sean Bugler appears to be the most likely of the youngsters to be deployed by Dessie Farrell. Bugler can play anywhere in the front six. However, this is what goes against him as the forward line is undoubtedly the hardest place to break into right now.
Similarly, Aaron Byrne and Ciaran Archer were standouts in their respective U21/U20 campaigns. Dessie Farrell will be well aware of these players. The new Dublin manager was the coach of the 2017 All-Ireland winning U21 team.
This year, Dubin are without Jack McCaffrey for the Championship. Therefore, a spot is up for grabs. Since the restart of the National League, Ballyboden St. Enda’s player Robbie McDaid has been given a chance here. He could be given the chance to make himself a household name come the Championship.
Further back, Cian Murphy is putting in performances in the full-back line. The likes of Philly McMahon and Johnny Cooper have been around for a long time. As he starts his reign, Dessie Farrell may see it as a chance to put his own stamp on the time.
In midfield, Emmet Ó Conghaile has started alongside Fenton against Meath and Galway. He has been around for a few years but 2020 could be the year he breaks into the team.
Bugler, McHugh, Archer, and Byrne could be put even further down the pecking order thanks to Paddy Small’s emergence. Furthermore, Eric Lowndes has turned himself into a candidate among the half-forward line.
To summarise, Dublin’s conveyor belt of talent continues to produce. Yet, past seasons suggest that only a select few will be given a chance when Championship comes around.
Perhaps Farrell will put his own spin on proceedings. The current crop of players around the starting team emphasise how strong they are. But Farrell has his own knowledge of these players. Whoever he chooses to be Dublin’s next breakout star is all but guaranteed to be a success.
Dublin start their Championship on November 7th at home to Westmeath.
— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) October 25, 2020