comeback kings | 

Getting Mannion and McCaffrey back a priority for Dessie Farrell says former Dub Paddy Christie

Former Dublin footballer Paddy Christie, Tipperary's current U-20 manager, at the launch the 2022 EirGrid U20 All-Ireland Football Championship at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Former Dublin star Paddy Christie insists that getting star men Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey back into the county fold should be a “priority” as their absence is “hard to absorb”.

There is a strong likelihood that the pair of 28-year-olds – who have 11 All-Ireland SFC medals between them – may not line out in sky blue again and Christie bemoans their absence as standards begin to dip..

“There’s talk that these guys won’t be back and may never be back again. In my eyes they are really, really important,” the Tipperary U-20 boss said at the EirGrid U-20 All-Ireland Football Championship launch.

“Paul Mannion has a serious enough injury, but even before injury, he wasn’t involved with Dublin. I think they were trying to get him back and he wasn’t too keen. He’s one of the best players in the country.

“If he was playing in Kerry, centre-forward or full-forward, he’d be scoring five or six points per game, the same for Mayo, or Tyrone. At their age, that’s when you are near the top of your game and to have fellas around of that vintage not involved, is hard going. Maybe they are a million miles away from ever coming back and it’s pipe dreams, but I don’t know.

“I think that would be a priority with me, to try and entice those fellas back. They are too good, you don’t have the replacements. No disrespect to the lads who are there. They are fellas who may make it in a long-term way with enough development and enough work, but they may not.

“Whereas you have fellas who are tried and trusted, who have the raw materials – top of the ground players at the top of their game – household names who are not involved. It’s hard to absorb those hits.”

After losing their opening four Division 1 ties, successive wins have given Dessie Farrell’s squad a chance to avoid relegation should they beat Monaghan this Sunday, although other results do need to go their way.

Christie doesn’t buy talk of their demise, or their resurrection in recent games for that matter, and reckons that their All-Ireland credentials will “trickle away slowly” over the coming years before they end up back in the chasing pack.

“Halfway in between, they’re not gone and they’re not back to where they were,” Christie said. “I don’t think my long-term opinion has changed in the last number of years, I think that the trajectory is going to be downwards sadly, slowly over time.

“You can’t disappear overnight like that. It certainly was a special group of players and none of that type of stuff disappears overnight, but it’ll trickle away slowly. They’re capable of winning a Leinster and still capable of winning an All-Ireland, but in a couple of years you’re going to find that they’re going to come back into the chasing pack with everyone else.”

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