It feels like an eternity, and a refreshing one, but the tower of strength in Dublin’s midfield, Brian Fenton, only made his senior debut two and a half years ago.
Since then he has solidified his position in the middle of the Dublin line out, and is one of the key components in the teams rampant success.
There are few players that can boast a 100% record in their first two years in the game. Two National Leagues, two Leinster Titles, Two All Ireland Medals, and two All Star Awards. And if that wasn’t enough Fenton was name Man Of The Match in the 2015 All Ireland Final victory over Kerry.
The Raheny man is still only 24 years old and is set to have a very long and successful career if his momentum continues at the same rate.
Fellow Club man, former Dublin midfielder, and RTÉ Sunday Game pundit Ciaran Whelan believes that things will be tougher for the Dublin youngster but knows there’s no better man to handle the pressure.
“I think how he’s handled himself so far has been fantastic.” Whelan explained to the42.ie.
“He’s still only 24 years of age. He has seven or eight years ahead of him at this level and he’ll be well able to cope. He has the smarts to do that.”
But Fenton has become the name on every opponents lips now, his popularity has soared, and as a result it draws extra attention. For Brian the past two plus years have been a whirlwind and the midfielder had his first taste of defeat only this year in the league Final against Kerry. On that occasion and in the earlier round game in Austin Stack Park, Kerry’s Jack Barry successfully shut down Fenton’s crafty runs, proving that he had been the subject of some extra analysis by manager Eamon Fitzmaurice.
“He’s at that level now where he’s recognised as probably the top midfielder in the country and that’s his challenge this year to deal with that, to be able to deal with being the target of the opposition that they are going to try and nullify his influence.”
“He just has to focus on his own game and he can’t get distracted by it and still set his own goals on what he has to do.”
Whelan, a proud servant to Dublin’s midfield, made 47 championship appearance in the sky blue jersey, and earned himself six Leinster honours and two All Stars. He is one of the best known midfielders Dublin has produced and knows full well the attention that tag brings.
“You have to handle it. You have to be able to control it. Sometimes it will work. It’s very easy as a midfielder – I could go out, you know, could have gone out on any given day and stopped the influence of another midfielder. It is a very different role to get in the middle of the park. You are sacrificing your game to stop an opposition player.”
“Brian Fenton is a 21 to 21 player, he’s up and down the field. It’s very, very different to the old day, but listen that’s something he’s just going to have to get used to.”
Whelan has watched Dublin evolve since hanging up his boots in 2009, has seen them lift the Sam Maguire four times and is now witnessing the birth of a new era for the Dublin team, with Fenton being one of the new breed responsible for continuing the team’s success.
“It’s the Brian Fentons, the Jack McCaffreys, the James McCarthys, these are the guys that are making Dublin tick at the moment, It’s cutting off Dublin where the supply comes from essentially.”
“It’s a new stage for them going into their careers, and that’s how it evolves. These guys, the Ciaran Kilkennys, who was in my opinion has been really influential when Dublin have been under pressure.”
“The night of the national league final we said it, it is these young players, these are the guys that are influencing Dublin.”
“These are the new leaders.”