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comment Why it is all rather childish for GAA managers to send out 'dummy teams' before the throw-in

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Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell

TWO weeks ago, in Tralee, just as the last notes of Amhrán na bhFiann were being played, we were informed there were four changes on the Dublin team.

Even though the original team which included James McCarthy and Con O’Callaghan had only been released a few hours earlier, the actual team was very different. Neither McCarthy or O’Callaghan started, while Ryan Basquel and Ross McGarry were also omitted.

Last weekend in Limerick, Galway went one better. We were informed before the game that Johnny Coen would replace Cianan Fahy, who captained GMIT in the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final earlier this week. It was Conor Cooney who replaced Fahy. We couldn’t but notice as Cooney scored ten points.

Listen, I acknowledge that in the bigger scheme of things these late changes are a minor irritant.

Back in the early days of my reporting career ANother was the most versatile player in GAA history, turning up in virtually every outfield position.

Eventually he was outlawed but what has evolved now is a lot more invidious.

Even though managers will emphatically deny this, the reality is that they select dummy teams in a bid to gain an edge.

I blame Al Pacino. The speech his character Tony D’Amato made in the movie Any Given Sunday has a lot to answer for.

“You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it.”

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The Mayo clash will have an edge for sure

The Mayo clash will have an edge for sure

The Mayo clash will have an edge for sure

Essentially what happens now is team managements provide a ‘team’ to the County Board officials in mid-week for inclusion in the match programme.

The actual team is selected on Friday night. Of course, it will bear some resemblance to the team named for the programme but rarely is it the same.

Take the team which James Horan has named for Saturday night’s Division 1 Allianz League clash against Dublin at Croke Park. It includes seven survivors from the epic All-Ireland semi-final clash last year.

Maybe Horan is taking the long view and wants to peak in July rather than inflict another morale-sapping defeat on Dublin, a team which has caused him more grief than every other county put together over the last decade. However, I doubt it.

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Only one of the forwards who started last August – All-Star Ryan O’Donoghue – is named. Obviously, Tommy Conroy is out for the season but Conor Loftus, Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin are all on the bench.

Oisin Mullin, who missed the All-Ireland final due to injury, is back for his first game since he decided not to switch to AFL, while All-Star Matthew Ruane is also back after serving a two-match ban for being red carded in the final.

However, neither Jason Doherty or Paddy Durcan are in the 26-man match-day squad, while Padraig O’Hora and Eoghan McLaughlin are on the bench.

Let’s be charitable here and suggest that if Mayo line out as selected it will be a bit of a surprise.

Despite their current woes, Dublin would expect to beat that anaemic looking Mayo side.

But I doubt if Dessie Farrell and his management team will give that ‘official’ team a second glance because it is more akin to a selection they would field in the FBD League than in their highest profile game so far this season.

It is all rather childish.

Meanwhile, the GAA wring their hands in mock frustration and suggest they cannot do anything about it. But if they were willing to confront team managers the issue could be instantly resolved.

All that is needed is a change in match regulations.

Counties would be obliged to publicly announced their 26-man match day squad 48 hours ahead of scheduled games in the league and championship.

Then five hours before the scheduled throw-in managers must name their starting 15.

No changes would be allowed in the 26-man squad unless a player is medically certified as being unable to start.

Any change in the starting 15 would count as a substitution.

Trust me the dummy team would be extinct within a month, and nobody would shed a single tear.

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