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EXCLUSIVE Dessie Farrell needs to give Mannion and McCaffrey a call and hold talks with Dublin squad

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Jack McCaffrey would make a huge difference to Dublin's speed in transition from defence to attack. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Jack McCaffrey would make a huge difference to Dublin's speed in transition from defence to attack. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Paul Mannion would improve the quality of Dublin's squad. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Paul Mannion would improve the quality of Dublin's squad. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Jack McCaffrey would make a huge difference to Dublin's speed in transition from defence to attack. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

So where now for the Dublin footballers? It might seem like a strange question, considering last Saturday’s defeat was their first in 45 championship games.

But there was a significant, perhaps seismic, feel to their loss at the hands of a far more vibrant Mayo.

Some have argued it is the end of an incredible era for the team of this vintage . . . time will tell, but perhaps now is the time for Dublin to mine down into exactly what went wrong in the second half and extra time.

That is not to cast any shade on Mayo’s victory. I have, in the past, written of my admiration of the Mayo players of this generation and of the bravery their manager James Horan has shown in rebuilding his panel. A panel rebuilt for big days in Croke Park in mind.

Despite being six points down at the start of the second half, they played the game play by play, score by score, without obsessing about scoring goals or what the clock was reading.

They did not spurn point chances in search of goals, unlike Dublin, and ultimately in normal time it was a game of mere inches.

Comparisons have been made to the great Kerry era of dominance of the 1970s and ’80s, and if there are lessons to be learned from the slide that saw the Kingdom fade into the background for a decade after their All-Ireland success of 1986, now is the time for Dublin do some housekeeping.

No doubt Dessie Farrell and his management team have already begun their review and I’d expect that to be followed by one-on-one meetings with players before the entire squad regroups.

If there are any lingering issues amongst the players, over the next few months is the time to clear the air and embrace the new challenges Dublin now face with a clear mind.

In the short term, Dublin’s shortcomings that were exposed by Mayo last weekend could be addressed by moving man and mountain to get Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion to recommit to the cause.

Both, in interviews, after they had decided to opt out of inter-county action, made reference to the most difficult part of leaving was that they felt they owed Farrell something for all the time and dedication he had put into them as talented, developing players during their time under his tutelage in development squads, minor and U-21 teams.

Perhaps now is the time to pose the question of the duo: “Ask not what your county can do for you, ask what you can do for your county?”

Certainly the absence of McCaffrey was felt very significantly this year, more than last, as Dublin’s ability to create goalscoring opportunities, to turn defence into attack and lift the siege when needed was lacking.

Dublin will need to develop the strength of the panel and no doubt Farrell and his back-room team will turn the club championship over in the search of players with the potential to contribute.

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Paul Mannion would improve the quality of Dublin's squad. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Paul Mannion would improve the quality of Dublin's squad. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Paul Mannion would improve the quality of Dublin's squad. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Perhaps there are players in the current panel that could be looked at in different positions or roles to give Dublin greater options?

Mayo were certainly rewarded by Horan’s brave approach since his return to the managerial hot seat.

Last Saturday’s clash was something of a madcap game that will go down as a classic among Mayo and neutral supporters.

It was full of incident and talking points and in a sense there is merit in the school of thought that it was the type of contest the game needed.

But a few things arose from it, subjects that have become even more obvious away from the helter-skelter action.

We live now in a different world, one where social media presents a dominant voice.

Players are amateurs who devote large parts of their lives to wearing their county jersey to the best of their ability. When the game is over they deserve respect and should be allowed to return to day-to-day life without some of the abuse that has been directed their way over the past week.

I’m referring particularly, but not only, to the abuse aimed at John Small following the controversial tackle on Eoghan McLaughlin.

I won’t dignify some of the language used and the allegations made here by repeating it, but, needless to say, it was as vitriolic as I can remember. Free speech is one thing, hate speech is something entirely different.

Having watched the incident back several times since, I am still adamant that Small did not intend to injure McLaughlin. He lined him up to leave something on him and unfortunately the Mayo defender suffered a bad injury. This type of a challenge is a high-risk hit for anyone to take on, and if it’s slightly off it can result in serious consequences.

Small’s momentum and follow through meant there was contact with the head and the Ballymun clubman could have been easily red-carded.

There were losers on all sides, obviously most of all McLaughlin, who apart from having to undergo surgery on his jaw will miss out on the All-Ireland final. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Small’s character and reputation was targeted online for gross abuse and Conor Lane received heavy criticism for failing to deal with the matter as it happened.

I feel there is a role for the GAA and the GPA in terms of protecting players from the online abuse they are subjected to year after year.

Aidan O’Shea is another example of player who was targeted online last week for just having a poor game.

It was interesting to hear Joe Canning, when reflecting on his inter-county playing days, make the following observation with regard to social media.

“The social media world and stuff was harder to deal with but that’s just part and parcel of the GAA at times, it was probably easier deal with it at the start than in the last couple of years.”

This quote gives a small insight from a legendary figure within the game and it should send a strong message to the GAA that our players need to be better protected.

As regards referees, the time has come to support them through technology. The Small incident had a massive impact on Lane’s performance for the rest of the game.

There is no doubt when he saw the extent of McLaughlin’s injury that he knew he had made a mistake. Simple human error, no one is perfect.

It is amazing the amount of people who expressed the view that in real time the challenge looked good, shoulder to shoulder. That’s the split second a referee has and Lane was also positioned behind Small and McLaughlin at the time of the clash.

I’d also be a massive supporter of examining how successfully a television match official (TMO) could be utilised at senior inter-county level.

The time has come to introduce the TMO and better technical support for referees.

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