Leinster must prove worth without Dubs - O'Flaherty
GAA Inter-Provincial Football Championship semi-final: Munster v Leinster (Saturday, Páirc Esler, Newry, 4pm)
LEINSTER’S Eoghan O’Flaherty says the absence of Dublin players has given the lesser lights in his province a chance to prove their worth.
Former Kildare captain O’Flaherty is one of five Lilywhite representatives in manager Seán Kelly’s squad for this weekend’s Railway Cup series, that begins against Munster on Saturday. With All-Ireland champions Dublin off on a team holiday, Meath native Kelly has included players from every Leinster county except Kilkenny and O’Flaherty says they have an extra incentive to do well.
“Dublin are the dominant team in Leinster and I suppose the rest of us aren’t regarded highly at all,” he said.
“It gives us all a chance to show our ability and, if we were to do well and progress to the final and even win it, it would be a turn-up for the books to do it without the Dublin players. It gives everyone a chance to show our quality and show that there’s more to Leinster maybe than Dublin. There’s an opportunity for us.”
Carbury forward O’Flaherty will link up with county colleagues Pádraig O’Neill, Cathal McNally, Tommy Moolick and Ollie Lyons on Saturday. Manager Kelly, who has former Kildare Allstar Johnny Doyle and former Offaly forward Vinny Claffey working as his selectors, has also named John Heslin (Westmeath), Donie Kingston (Laois), Graham Reilly (Meath) and Niall McNamee (Offaly), while Meath’s Stephen Bray is also included despite having retired from inter-county duty at the end of the season.
O’Flaherty hasn’t resumed on-field county training yet with new Kildare manager Cian O’Neill and welcomes the opportunity to get back into action: “It’s nice to get back out on the field,” he said.
“It’s a nice start to the year and it’s nice to be asked to play - I played against Ulster in 2014 and it was probably the most open game of football I played in that year.
“One game is going to be hard enough and, if we have to play the two over two days, I’m sure all the panel is going to be used and there’ll be plenty of tired legs come Sunday. We’ll manage, hopefully. Some of our lads have been playing a bit of football recently with their clubs, so we’ll be hoping their legs will last a bit longer.”
Meanwhile, five-time Kerry Sam Maguire winner Aidan O’Mahoney will lead out a strong Munster side that includes former Antrim star James Loughrey at Newry on Saturday evening. The Rathmore full-back is one of nine representatives from the Kingdom in the Gerry O’Sullivan-managed select and alongside him are fellow 2014 All-Ireland winners Fionn Fitzgerald and Paul Murphy, while goalkeeper Brendan Kealy featured in this year’s Sam Maguire decider.
Alongside the Kerry contingent are four players from Cork - former St Brigid’s, Belfast defender Loughrey is joined by Eoin Cadogan, Brian O‘Driscoll and Kevin O’Driscoll. Ireland international Rules star Gary Brennan and his Clare team-mate Jamie Malone also feature, while Seánie Buckley, Ian Corbett, Pa Ranahan and Brian Scanlon form a strong Limerick representation in a panel that also includes Peter Acheson, Steven O’Brien and Michael Quinlivan from Tipperary and Thomas O’Gorman and Paul Whyte from Waterford.
O’Flaherty says the inclusion of some college footballers in the Munster panel is a canny selection policy from O’Sullivan: “I think some of the Kerry lads play a bit of college football, so they’re probably a little sharper than some of the Leinster lads are going to be,” he said.
“If they’re playing games with their colleges, they’re probably the best players in Munster at the minute, whether they’re big names or not. That’s probably an advantage there and they’re thinking wisely in their choosing of their team.”
The most recent of Munster’s 15 Railway Cup titles came back in 2008, while the last of Leinster’s 28 wins came in 2006.
Munster panel: A O'Mahony, D Casey, C Cox, A Fitzgerald, F Fitzgerald, M Griffin, B Kealy, P Murphy, G O’Sullivan (Kerry); E Cadogan, J Loughrey, B O‘Driscoll, K O’Driscoll (Cork); S Buckley, I Corbett, P Ranahan, B Scanlon (Limerick); P Acheson, S O’Brien, M Quinlivan (Tipperary); G Brennan, J Malone (Clare); T O’Gorman, P Whyte (Waterford).
Leinster panel: P Rath (Louth); E O’Flaherty, P O’Neill, C McNally, T Moolick, O Lyons (Kildare); R Connellan, K Martin, P Sharry, J Heslin (Westmeath); D Kingston, E O’Carroll (Laois); J Maloney, G Guilfoyle, A Mulhall, N McNamee (Offaly); D Healy (Wicklow); B Malone (Wexford); S Bray, D Keoghan, G Reilly (Meath); D St Leger (Carlow); B Gilleran, P Collum (Longford).