BLUES PRIMED FOR NEW CHALLENGE.

THERE will be no Ciarán Kilkenny nor Kevin O’Brien in Ravenhill for Dublin tonight in the Game for Anto, in what is expected to be a full-blooded charity challenge against a fully-loaded Ulster selection (6.0, live Setanta Ireland).

Both are in the final stages of cruciate recovery but Dubs manager Jim Gavin explained: “this weekend is probably a few weeks too early.”

While declining to specify a date for either’s return, Gavin did reveal: “There is a broad plan to have them back playing in the New Year and let’s hope that they can get there but they’re well on track.”

The likes of Stephen Cluxton, Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O’Gara, Jack McCaffrey, Nicky Devereux, Philly McMahon, Mick Fitzsimons, Darren Daly, Shane Carthy, Dean Rock and Philly Ryan are all confirmed participants for tonight’s game however, a fundrasier for the fight against motor neuron disease, fronted by former Antrim captain and MND sufferer, Anto Finnegan.

In addition, Gavin confirmed to the Herald that his squad will similarly feature a smattering of “players who we want to invite in and get them accustomed to the senior set-up and give them game time wearing a county jersey against the top players that Ulster can bring in a unique environment.”

In short, those who Gavin feels can or will break into his panel in 2015.

Of those breaking out, the Dublin manager is as yet unsure.

“We have to have those conversations yet,” he said about potential retirees or, indeed, collateral damage from a season in which Dublin, as lava-hot favourites, failed to retain the All-Ireland SFC title.

“The club league are still ongoing. But a lot of the players only finished last weekend. So for me, it’s about giving the players time and space to reflect on the season just gone.”

However, he warned: “It’s going to take an awful lot of hard work to get back to where we want to be.

“So each player will need to be ready for that challenge and ask themselves are they ready for that challenge.”

Ulster, co-managed by Joe Kernan and Brian McEniff will have the likes of Jamie Clarke (Armagh), Rory Beggan (Monaghan), Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Aaron Findon (Armagh), Ciarán McKeever (Armagh), Niall McKeever (Antrim) and Conor Gormley (Tyrone) in tow and speaking ahead of the game, Gavin was effusive in his admiration of the event’s creator, Finnegan.

“He’s an inspiration, not only for the GAA community, but for those people who have been touched by motor neuron disease,” the Dubs boss stressed.

“I did say – and I still believe this – he is one of life’s heroes. We all have challenges in our lives but to have the challenge of coping with motor neuron disease, a terminal illness.

“He was diagnosed in 2013 and the terminal nature of the illness and he has a young family and a young wife. Some people might go into a corner and accept their fate but in the time he has left, he wants to make a difference.

“He wants to raise awareness of motor neuron disease, he wants to raise funds for the motor neuron association and for patient care.

“He set up a trust; ‘DeterMND’, to promote awareness of motor neuron disease and try and find a cure.

“So from a Dublin GAA perspective,” Gavin concluded, “we’re just happy to play some small part in his goals for himself and his goals for motor neuron research.”(The Herald)
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