by Jackie Cahill
Members of Dessie Farrell's Dublin U21 panel have taken the agonising decision not to line out for their clubs in the first round of the county senior football championship over the coming days.
Dublin's players met collectively on Tuesday evening and made the extremely difficult choice not to make themselves available for club duty, ahead of the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 final clash with Galway in Tullamore on Saturday week.
A full round of first round Dublin SFC games is down for decision over the next three days, starting this evening (THURS) with five matches.
The stand-out tie is the meeting of Ballyboden St Enda's and St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh at Parnell Park and as things stand, Ballyboden will be lining out without Colm Basquel and Shane Clayton.
Of the 21 players used in the recent All-Ireland semi-final victory over Donegal, ten clubs were represented.
All ten, namely Ballymun Kickhams, Raheny, Kilmacud Crokes, Na Fianna, Lucan Sarsfields, Thomas Davis, Clontarf, Ballyboden, Cuala and Skerries Harps, are all scheduled to play before Saturday evening in knockout games.
Na Fianna, Kilmacud and Raheny were best represented with three starters each on the Dublin U21 team last time out.
Kilmacud, who have Cillian O'Shea as Dublin U21 captain, are due in action against Erins Isle this evening and tomorrow, Raheny play Cuala and Na Fianna take on Naomh Olaf.
Cuala, incidentally, had two players who featured against Donegal - sharpshooter Con O'Callaghan and Darragh Spillane, who was introduced as a substitute.
The Dublin county board CCC's decision that club fixtures will go ahead was met with fierce resistance by Farrell, and has now led to this messy standoff.
Discussions took place over the weekend but failed to resolve the impasse, as the CCC held firm.
The clubs are now left with a difficult choice - play the games without their county stars or withdraw and face any consequences that might follow.
But clubs are angry that their players were forced into a choice between club and county - and have found themselves caught in the middle of a dispute between Dublin U21 team management and the county board.
A county board regulation states that no club team with a player on the Dublin panel should be asked to play a championship game within 21 days of an All-Ireland final - but that only applies for senior inter-county purposes, and doesn't cover the U21 grade.
Farrell insisted, however, that the first round of club games involving his players should have been postponed until a later date, given the exceptional circumstance involved, and the progression of his team to an All-Ireland decider.
The stakes are high for the clubs affected and taking the Ballyboden game in isolation, were they to lose against St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh, who have the Brogan brothers in their ranks, they would be facing into the B championship in Dublin, little over a month since they still held the title of All-Ireland club champions.