IF I have to predict which player or players could have a really serious impact on the All-Ireland SFC final replay, I keep thinking of one man, having watched the draw again.
Eoin Murchan will probably not feature too frequently in journalists’ pieces this week as being a potential game-breaker.
In fact, the wing-back might not even make Jim Gavin’s starting 15, assuming it is revised.
Yet, he stood out like a beacon in the final quarter, when Dublin required leaders to ensure that Kerry, a man to the good numbers-wise, did not deny Gavin’s charges a replay, at least.
Maybe it was only because he entered the fray on 58 minutes, replacing John Small, so he was fresh, while others were waning, but Murchan’s energy was a potent weapon that Dublin might well utilise from the off next Saturday.
Peter Keane’s defence could not handle his runs from deep and he, of course, set-up Dean Rock’s leveller, when it seemed Dublin might be starting to run out of ideas, as additional-time was almost up.
Ciarán Kilkenny dropped out to the middle-third to try and dictate the tempo, from Dublin’s perspective, and did that job as effectively as ever, but it was Murchan, working in and around Kilkenny, who allowed the Castleknock man to engineer attacks.
Murchan’s selfless running created space for others, even when he was not on the ball himself, and Charlie Redmond mentioned Murchan as somebody who would add pace, as turf-scorcher Jack McCaffrey does.
Writing in a column, Redmond mused: ‘So, what are the changes that I think Dublin will make?
‘Well, would James McCarthy move to midfield at Michael Darragh Macauley’s expense?
‘That would get James into the game and allow MDMA to offer a bit of ‘oomph’ and impact from that bench, when he could bring his power and pace to bear in the second-half.
‘So, who would play at centre back? Cian O’Sullivan, if he’s fit, or there’s Jonny Cooper or John Small.
‘Indeed, selecting Small would allow Eoin Murchan to start at wing-back.
‘A Dublin team playing badly still hurt Kerry last Sunday with their speed. Exhibit A — Jack McCaffrey.
‘Murchan is just as fast as Jack and made an impact when he came on as a blood sub.
‘And for that same quality of speed, I’d like to see Eric Lowndes as part of the Dublin 26 next Saturday.
‘He could have been an option for Jim Gavin last Sunday, to run at Kerry, but Jim didn’t name him.
‘And what about a change in the forwards? Murchan is an option for a place in the forward line, bringing his defender’s instinct to tracking back.
‘But, also, to allow the Na Fianna man to run at Kerry’s back-line, when he sees the opportunity.
‘Jim Gavin could also just simply start off with Connolly.
‘Yes, he wouldn’t have the fitness to go for all the 70 minutes, but it would be a major curveball that would upset Kerry’s defensive plans.
‘Dermo would simply have to have a man-marker. One of those players detailed to curtail Con O’Callaghan, or Paul Mannion might have to be moved.
‘Kerry boss, Peter Keane, got so much right last Sunday, but he could not take the gamble of letting Connolly run loose for 25 minutes.
‘He’d have to put one of his very best defenders on the St Vincent’s man.
‘And the last thing that might well be done differently for the replay is that Bernard Brogan should be a sub.
‘Just as there wouldn’t be a full match in Connolly by starting him, there is also the option of a game-changer, in the final 15 minutes of the match, in Bernard.
‘Is there any other player you would want on the ball, when it comes to taking a chance for a point at the end?
‘So much went wrong for Dublin in the draw — and they didn’t lose.
‘They will get a lot more right next Saturday — and they will win.’
Whether Diarmuid Connolly will be included is anybody’s guess, but Redmond’s suggestion that Murchan is also an option in attack for Dublin makes sense, too.
Having him at wing-back will add a dimension to Dublin’s arsenal that Kerry might struggle to cope with. He is such a dynamic operator that he could pop up in pockets of space and either release other forwards or take on a scoring opportunity himself.
Aidan O’Mahony was another to acknowledge the impact Murchan made when introduced and, with John Small apparently having picked up a hand injury, there is every reason to believe Gavin will give Murchan a start.
In 2016, Mick Fitzsimons, having not started the draw, began in the replay against Mayo and went on to earn the man-of-the-match award.
If Murchan starts this time, do not be at all surprised that he produces a display that will at least put him on the fringes of collecting the individual award.