ST JUDE’S have been the nearly men of Dublin football in recent years, and going into this year’s season, the message coming out of the club is a simple one: they want to be the nearly men no more.
“The mantra for this year is ‘something has to change’,” coach Gerry Carty tells the Dublin Gazette ahead of the AFL 1 opener, citing last year’s semi-final defeat against Vincent’s as a particularly harrowing moment.
“It’s hard to play well in the championship if you don’t play well in the league, you can’t just flick a switch,” Carty says. “It’s a chance to bring in some minor players who get an opportunity to play.
Ciaran Doherty has been attracting the interest of the Dublin management, and played in the O’Byrne Cup, as did Seamie Ryan. They’re ready.”
“We all have the impact of losing players,” Carty says of star man Kevin McManamon’s regular outings with the county.
“I remember in the past Kevin, who’s an integral part of our squad, coming back from playing in Kerry on Saturday night to play for us in Rush on a Sunday morning, so he’ll do everything he can for the club.
“If he’s allowed to play, he’ll be there. But obviously that’s not every time. Every club has the same problem.
“The schedule is a big challenge,” he continues. “I think it’s a positive move to have the group stage in the championship that guarantees if you can win one game early in the season, you’ll still have competitive football into September.
“The players give it all to get ready for the championship so it being over with a single off game isn’t right. This rewards them with at least three games in the championship.”
Jude’s will be all about strategy this year, though, with Carty focused on ways to turn around those ‘just short of glory’ recent seasons.
Carty – who has a background in basketball – is looking at kick outs in particular.
“Let’s say there are 23 of them in a game,” he explains.
“They’re critical to possession and to the final score. If you can turn over 25% of the other teams, and keep your own, you’re very likely to win.
“Our thing will be going that bit further, and our key is just hard work. We’ll treat every game the same, work hard, and then the skills will come in thereafter.”
Jude’s open their season against impressive opposition in Na Fianna, a club Carty is convinced are on the up due to their strong record at minor and age group levels.
The pair get underway at Tymon North at 10.15am on Sunday morning.