HomeFootballAway days no Small pleasure for Dublin’s attacking star

Away days no Small pleasure for Dublin’s attacking star


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Two weeks ago, Ciarán Kilkenny broke with convention by offering an opinion that Dublin’s summer opener with Meath – a grimly predictable affair – should have been played in Navan.

Yesterday it was Paddy Small, not quite urging the Leinster Council to scatter the pre-final action around the province, but espousing the benefits of playing elsewhere. Preferably grounds that have a large number of people in them relative to capacity.

“For me personally,” says Small, “I love travelling. Going around the country. Getting into different stadiums, different environments, different buzz, different counties.

“As players, we love playing in those packed out arenas where the atmosphere is at its highest. It’s a phenomenal experience. I know especially from a Dublin side, the supporters are always great at travelling.

​“I know as a supporter myself, those big weekends away; Cork, Kerry, down to Meath – whatever it might be, those games with that atmosphere are the ones you relish the most.”

Dessie Farrell has been most vocal about this. Repeatedly so.

Atmosphere-wise, Sunday was as underwhelming an occasion as Championship football gets.

Kildare’s struggles aside, they were welcomed to the pitch in Croke Park on Sunday by a faint ripple of encouragement for a Leinster semi-final that had season-defining repercussions.

The attendance was 21,957, a desperately small figure for an event comprising four counties. For context, 22,707 came to Croke Park for Dublin’s first game of the 2022 league, when they were beaten by Armagh. A stand alone game.

“It’s a tough one,” Small notes. “In terms of the crowd, I don’t really know why it is. I know there’s a lot of different ideas floating around as to why attendances might be low.

“I know myself from growing up going to Leinster Championship games, there was a phenomenal buzz. I remember going to Dublin and Meath games as a child and there was a great atmosphere at them.

“As players, we can only focus on the actual task at hand. We we’re playing, where we are. The external stuff around it, we don’t have much control on it.”

Yesterday, Small was asked how many Leinster medals he has. He stopped for a few seconds, did the calculations and replied, “seven, I think.”

Therein lies the problem. They can’t admit as much publicly but winning Leinster is no longer an achievement for Dublin. For everyone else, it is not currently achievable.

Of more pressing matters, Small was a substitute on Sunday.

It’s a role which he has experience in with Dublin. But having started last year’s All-Ireland final, and scoring a goal, he might reasonably have expected to be in Farrell’s preferred attacking alignment now, just as the Dublin team is taking on detectably summer dimensions.

The devil is in the detail.

Small estimates that he has had 15 to 20 hamstring injuries in the last five years. Generally, having to estimate when it comes to hamstring injuries isn’t a good sign.

Insomnia ambassador and Dublin footballer Paddy Small poses for a portrait at the launch of Insomnia’s 5-year partnership with the GAA/GPA

“There’s a couple of Grade 3s in there as well,” he says, ruefully. “That’s certainly been the injury that has plagued me most, especially when it becomes chronic it can be quite challenging as a player.

“It’s a massive challenge. You can also frame it as a massive opportunity as well, that if there is something that you can work on over those times when you might be sidelined.

“I mean, you won’t get a better time to work on those things. So yeah, it is a massive challenge, injuries, but they’re an inevitability in our sport.

“You have to make sure that you’re thinking positively and that you frame it as an opportunity to make sure that when you are back, you’re stronger, you’re fitter, you’re faster, you’re psychologically much better, whatever that might look like. And you try to take it from there,” concluded the Ballymun Kickhams man.

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