Friday night’s alright

by Stephen Findlater
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GABRIEL Bannigan says that the signs are that Friday night’s return to the Dublin senior football championship has come at just the right time for St Sylvester’s after a glut of absenteeism.

They face Ballinteer St John’s on Friday night in Balgriffin, with the throw in at 7.30pm, with as many as nine players back in contention for a starting spot after an injury-ravaged summer.

Michael McCarthy, Gary Sweeney, Collie McIntyre, John Coughlan, Eoin Fanning, Alan Foy and Conor Daly all missed part of the AFL1 campaign to date but look to be back in the mix while Dublin Under-21 Stephen Cunningham and former minor star Eoin Boyne are back after stints in America.

There are still doubts over Declan Rooney and Mark Brennan while goalkeepers Rob Wallace and Dominic McDonnell are both long-term injury victims but Stephen Finnegan has stepped in to good effect.

It means that the Malahide club are in much better shape for the battle compared to when the draw was made for the second round of the competition.

Back then, Ballinteer St John’s were flying off the back of a first round win over St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh and pushing on in AFL2.

But games have been limited for both Ballinteer and Syl’s in recent times, meaning that a form guide of sorts is difficult to come by.

Bannigan’s charges have not played a competitive tie since mid-August, making do with four challenge games against clubs from outside Dublin with Ballinteer doing likewise.

“Challenge games are challenge games,” the St Sylvester’s manager told GazetteSport. “Training has gone well and so have the challenge games and we’d be happy with where we are at physically but we won’t know until Friday night when the action commences just how sharp we are.

“We have to expect them to be in good shape and well up for it but we can only focus on our own camp and being as right as possible.

“We’re certainly in better shape than we were in June. We’ve timed our training to peak at this stage. It’s been a year of a lot of changes and we’ve been moulding a new team effectively and we’d be happy that has got better as the league has progressed. We are in the shake-up in division one and happy to be there.

“We’ve got most of the players injured and away back from abroad and so we’re coming together nicely.”

Ballinteer will look to their young charges to supply much of their impetus with the likes of Peter O’Curry and Fearghal Duffy emerging as top quality options.

Dublin senior Nicky Devereux provides the engine in midfield for a dynamic young side that are still hopeful of gaining promotion up to AFL1.

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