John Small was delighted to get his first start of the summer as Dublin secured an All-Ireland semi-final spot with a tight 1-14 to 0-14 win over Tyrone in Omagh.
The Ballymun Kickhams clubman missed out on the first Super 8s tie with Donegal with suspension following his controversial red card in the Leinster final win over Laois.
The ban was appealed but, in spite of their vociferous defence, Small’s one-game suspension stood as Jim Gavin’s side overcame Donegal by 2-15 to 0-16.
Having missed the early part of the Leinster championship with injury, Small was eager to get back into the thick of the action as Dublin secured a spot in the semis with a game to spare.
“I had a bit of an injury earlier on and was obviously suspended then for the Donegal game,” Small said as AIG announced Aoibheann’s Pink Tie would feature on Dublin GAA jerseys this summer.
“It was great that I got put back in and I was delighted to be able to represent the group. It was a great game up there, very tough, very physical.
“Tyrone are a great side – we didn’t expect anything less. There was only one score in it in the end. It was a very good game.”
Ideally speaking, Small would have been involved from the beginning of the Super 8s and he admitted he was 50/50 on whether his appeal would be upheld.
“Was I surprised? Eh, well it was just the decision taken on the day. I wasn’t going in expecting either way. They decided that I didn’t [get off] so we just took it on the chin and that was it.
“I just tried to tackle the ball and it was a bit unfortunate the way it transpired but the referees are trying to do their best. We appealed it and didn’t get off and that’s just the way it goes.”
Dublin have a bit of a free shot at Roscommon, who are already eliminated from contention following straight defeats.
Little about Jim Gavin’s tenure at the helm of the senior side suggests they’ll do anything to take the Rossies lightly, however, and Small expects a full-on battle for the win.
“[It’ll be a] tough game. They’ve some really good players, the likes of Enda Smith and the two Murtaghs. They play a nice, attacking brand of football and it will be a really tough game.”
With all the attention recently on the perceived advantage Dublin have playing a greater proportion of their games in Croke Park, it was gratifying to get the win away from home against Tyrone.
The GAA have had another stadium issue to deal with as debate rages on whether they could or should open up Páirc Uí Chaoimh for an all-star fundraiser for the late Liam Miller.
Small, who played soccer with St Kevin’s Boys and Tolka Rovers until focusing fully on football in his late teens, sees no reason the GAA can’t be more open to other sports in general.
“I haven’t looked too much into it but I think I don’t see any problem why they wouldn’t play the game there in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
“I haven’t got a massive opinion on it but I don’t see why they wouldn’t. “It can’t be a bad thing if more people are going to Croke Park or the different stadiums, watching games.”