Starting Cian O'Sullivan would be 'big risk' for Dublin boss Gavin says Paddy Christie

Cian O'Sullivan has been a stalwart of the Dublin side for the past decade, but Paddy Christie doesn't believe Jim Gavin will be tempted to start him tonight. Picture by Philip Walsh
Cian O'Sullivan has been a stalwart of the Dublin side for the past decade, but Paddy Christie doesn't believe Jim Gavin will be tempted to start him tonight. Picture by Philip Walsh

FORMER Dublin captain Paddy Christie believes Jim Gavin will be taking a “big risk” if he decides to start Cian O’Sullivan in tonight’s All-Ireland final replay.

The amount of joy Kerry got against the Dublin full-back line last time out prompted speculation that Gavin could be tempted to bring specialist sweeper O’Sullivan back into the fold.

However, with the hamstring injury that has dogged the 31-year-old all summer flaring up again prior to the drawn game, Christie fears a lack of mobility could be exposed by a confident Kingdom.

“He’s a natural sweeper, but the problem is if he hasn’t played much football and he’s gone down a notch, it’s such a big risk to play for an entire game,” said Christie, who helped bring several of the current Dublin players through the ranks at Ballymun Kickham’s.

“Maybe for 10 or 15 minutes at the end when the pace has gone out of the game, but it’s a big ask to start. I’d be shocked if that was the case. In the Cork game [in the Super 8s], he was at sea.”

Eoin Murchan, who starred in the 2018 All-Ireland victory over Tyrone, came off the bench a fortnight ago and has been mooted as a potential starter.

Christie, though, feels Murchan’s lack of physical presence could prove problematic against the Kingdom and expects Gavin to shuffle the pieces already on the board rather than opting for personnel changes.

“He’s physically small. You’ve got Tommy Walsh who could start or be thrown on at any stage, and I would have a fear about the likes of Eoin Murchan being in there.

“Eoin is a fine player but with such high stakes, it’s asking a lot of a young fella. Even Paddy Small showed a bit of inexperience when he came on the last day, a bit of composure was missing.

“You’re looking at older heads - Kevin McManamon was one of the lads who came on. He hasn’t had a lot of game time and he has a lot of miles on the clock. Is he a serious option for 10 or 15 minutes? Probably not.

“Rory O’Carroll came back and hasn’t really been seen. Even against Tyrone he got turned very easy. For all of Dublin’s supposed strengths, when you look at it, what are the options?

“So suddenly you’re starting to get around to thinking: is the bench as strong as I thought they were? There’s question marks. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, but there are doubts cast after the last day.

“The only people who really know what’s going on are Jim and his backroom staff because they’re seeing what’s going on at training.”

Despite some of those concerns Christie, who managed the likes of Con O’Callaghan and Brian Howard when over the Dublin minors, expects his native county to complete the ‘drive for five’ tonight.

Yet he doesn’t see the Dublin domination carrying on indefinitely, remarking that the flow of underage talent coming through was “trickling” rather than gushing.

“I don’t see that same conveyor belt of talent coming through,” admits Christie.

“That’s not because people aren’t working as hard behind the scenes, it’s just the cyclical nature of things. You just have to have the right timing – guys like Cormac Costello and Ciaran Kilkenny, they came through on top of a really good team, but that runs its course.

“Drying up is very strong, but certainly the flow is trickling. Plus, when you’re winning and things are going well, that’s probably when you’re at your most vulnerable because inevitably people tend to take their foot off the pedal and it makes the other counties put in an extra 10 per cent.

“Yes Dublin are capable of winning a couple more All-Irelands, but when the likes of Cian O’Sullivan, Philly McMahon, Stephen Cluxton finish up, it will be very difficult.

“You’re losing not just a player but their attitude, their presence. When they speak, they’re listened to, and you’re probably going to lose a lot of these guys together.”