king con | 

How Con O'Callaghan's return will add more firepower to Dublin's failing bid for Sam

Thing is, Dublin are not so mighty no more - and we might actually have a competitive series in the east in 2022, for the first time since, perhaps, 2010.

Con O'Callaghan was badly missed for Dublin's Allianz League campaign

Charlie Redmond

It tells you everything you need to know about the Leinster Football Championship of 2022, that the semi-final draw won't be made until after the four teams who qualify are known.

Apparently, the council didn't want the other counties to know that the mighty Dubs stood in their way.

Thing is, Dublin are not so mighty no more - and we might actually have a competitive series in the east in 2022, for the first time since, perhaps, 2010.

Back then, Meath put five goals past Stephen Cluxton and Joe Sheridan then scored 'a try' in Croke Park, but while playing for the Royals against Louth, not for Ireland in the Six Nations.

Now Meath, Kildare , and even a resurgent Louth under Mickey Harte, will be looking at Dublin and saying, 'hold on a minute here'.

Paul Mannion retired from inter-county action in his prime

Yet I believe Dublin are just three players short of winning this year's All-Ireland. They are Con O'Callaghan, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion.

Con will be back for the championship, that's what we've been told all year.

The other two? Well no, the news is that there is no news and these two 28-year-olds, at the peak of their powers, are not with the Dublin squad right now.

Father Time has claimed Stephen Cluxton, Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan, Michael Darragh Macauley and others from the Dubs' panel.

It is the loss of McCaffrey and Mannion in their prime that is eating at Dublin right now.

Those who have come in to the Sky Blues' squad are not at the level of the departing heroes. How could they be?

Some of the lost warriors are among the greatest players to ever wear the Dublin shirt.

A fall-off once they went was inevitable, losing McCaffrey and Mannion was just not part of the planning for the future.

Dublin scored just two goals from play in their seven Allianz League matches.

Sean Bugler was their top scorer from play in the same competition, amassing 0-12 points.

With stats like those, Dublin are going nowhere this summer.

But then the forward line will be energised by the return of 'King Con', and also Paddy Small who missed the whole of the league.

Cormac Costello, too, missed four matches. Dublin were short of firepower in the spring, now they have to find their shooting boots for the summer.

Paddy Small has big boots to fill

If any Leinster team take Dublin down, they will celebrate as if they have won the All-Ireland.

And rightly so. When the same team has won a competition every year since 2005, with one exception, there would have to be a huge outpouring of emotion when the giants finally fall.

Meath might fancy their chances of taking Dublin down if they got their hands on them.

But then Meath were in danger of relegation to Division Three of the league for much of the season, and had players injured and missing from the ranks. Can you truly back them to take down Dublin?

Not right now, they may need a few of last year's minors who won the All-Ireland title to come through.

But remember, minor is an Under-17 grade now - it could be a while before the best of those lads are ready to challenge for a senior jersey.

Kildare might be the better option for a shock, if they can get all their players fit and on the pitch.

Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland and Darragh Kirwan give the Lilies plenty of punching power in attack.

Before a possible Leinster semi-final or final clash with the Dubs, however, Kildare have a banana skin to dodge.

Louth play Carlow in the first round on this day fortnight - and if they win that match, they will play Kildare.

That game would probably be fixed for Navan - a ground that Louth, for some reason, love playing in.

Louth's confidence has to be sky high right now on the back of successive league promotions under Mickey Harte.

And in Sam Mulroy, they have one of the very best forwards in the country.

I was really impressed, too, by Tommy Durnin at midfield as Louth won the Division Three title last weekend.

And Harte has pulled a right rabbit out of his hat, by turning former midfielder James Califf into a goalkeeper whose kick-outs are put right on the money.

The loser of that probable match-up stays in the championship, as both teams are now in Division Two of the league, but both will want to go through the 2022 front door.

But, in the end, it all comes down to the Dubs and the team recovering their appetite.

For those two players, James McCarthy and Mick Fitzsimons, pursuing their ninth All-Ireland football medal, history beckons.

Dublin begin their campaign with a quarter-final against the winner of Offaly and Wexford - and that will mean a day out for Dublin supporters in either Tullamore or Wexford Park.

After that, it is all down to the luck of the draw as to who plays who.

But if Dublin are close to anything like their best, if their talent is switched on to the demands ahead of them, this is yet another year when the Delaney Cup stays by the Liffey.


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