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Cormac Costello's on verge of forcing way into championship starter-zone for Dublin

It is testament to the depth of quality at Jim Gavin’s disposal that Cormac Costello will be wondering today if he will start in Tralee next Saturday night.

While players from 99% of the counties would be guaranteed to maintain their place in the starting 15 for their respective side following a display as marvellous as his was last Saturday in Croke Park, Costello will not be taking his spot for granted.

If he was not a Dubliner, he could be safe in the knowledge that he would be a main attacking threat against Kerry for whichever other side it was he would be lining out for this weekend.

Yet, Costello appreciates, probably more than most as he has struggled to cement a place in the team, that Gavin is not the type to automatically select any player, no matter how he has performed in the previous game, or games.

Realistically, though, Costello will retain his place in the side as Dublin tackle Kerry.

Costello’s was one of the most polished displays seen across the divisions thus far this year as he, along with Dean Rock, scorer of 1-5 including 1-3 in open play, tormented the Tribesmen at headquarters.

After the match, Kevin Walsh bemoaned the fact his outfit had “12 kicked turnovers in the second half which is unacceptable”.

That may be true, and it did lead to Dublin padding out their advantage to a winning margin of 11 points, but nothing should detract from how exceptional Costello performed in the centre-forward role.

Séan Andy O Ceallaigh was tasked with marking him from the off, yet, it was a thankless task for the majority of the contest as Costello ran riot.

In fact, it was a performance of a man that has consciously said to himself: ‘It’s time to make myself indispensable’.

Of course, I could be reading too much into one display and, maybe, Costello will not progress from what he achieved last Saturday individually.

However, just sometimes you see a player producing a level of performance that makes you really think and that was the case watching Costello on that occasion.

Costello’s frightening qualities have never been in doubt. Yet, you often felt he could show those qualities more and more and more as he matured.

If we can take the evidence presented against Galway as reliable, he might be on the verge of a brilliant season.

He will be aware that this competition gives him a wonderful opportunity to almost force Gavin into starting him in the Leinster championship.

In fairness, despite Gavin’s lack of sentimentality, he does give players the game-time when it really matters if they are willing to really put their hands up in the league.

O Ceallaigh would be obviously seen as one of Galway’s best man-markers.

However, Costello made O Ceallagh look quite ordinary as a defender, at times.

And that, in itself, is no mean feat as the westerner is a seriously decent competitor himself.

Now, it is one thing for Costello to represent his county so well at Croke Park.

A real acid test of his seasonal credentials should come this Saturday night against the Kingdom.

If Costello can be even close to being as dominant as he was against Galway, then we can safely argue that he will indeed be another thorn for all other counties to concern themselves with when the time comes for those sides to meet the Dubs.

Costello will know, however, that if his form dips at all he will be back in the role of super sub almost immediately.

That is why he will be equally motivated to cause Kerry problems.

Maybe Paul Murphy will be tasked with trying to curtail Costello and if that is the case, that particular duel alone will be worth keeping an extremely close eye on with a view to a possible rematch at the business end of the championship.

Murphy’s stature and athleticism would ask different questions of Costello.

In fact, Murphy’s tendency to drive forward with runs off the shoulders of players in possession will ensure Costello has to track back more than he would have had to do against O Ceallaigh.

Regardless, we will know more about where he stands after Saturday night.

However, it’s a case of so far so good for his longer-term credentials, especially as Gavin admitted how difficult it will be to leave him out of the championship team if he continues in this vein of form.

“Certainly, it benefits a player if he’s getting a good run of games in the league to stake a claim to a Championship spot. That’s the form that we’d know from Cormac,” Gavin said afterwards.

First and foremost, he’s a great team player and does an awful lot of work off the ball for the team. To see Cormac getting those scores isn’t a surprise.

“A lot of hard work goes into the build-up play and it’s great to have a player of his quality to finish those moves.”

Costello has put himself in a great position to secure more game-time in the summer.