by Paddy Hickey
Dublin goalkeeping legend John O'Leary says he is only too happy that Stephen Cluxton will equal his number of inter-county appearances in tomorrow's Super 8 clash with Tyrone.
Over the course of a glorious career with the Dubs stretching from 1980 to 1997, O'Leary lined out in a total of 197 games, combining League and Championship campaigns.
And following last Sunday's Croke Park win over Donegal, Cluxton has appeared in 196 games, meaning that he will extend his run to 200 outings between the posts if Dublin reach this year's All-Ireland final, by virtue of the third round Super 8 clash against Roscommon and the All-Ireland semi-final.
Indeed, the Parnells clubman already holds an edge over his predecessor in one respect, having played 94 Championship games compared to 70 for O'Leary, who leads the way in League appearances on 127 compared to Cluxton's total of 102.
"I was very happy and proud to have held the record number of appearances for Dublin for a considerable period, but I am now delighted that Stephen is going to equal that number of appearances in the game against Tyrone," commented O'Leary on the game statistics relating to the two illustrious netminders.
"I knew that Stephen had played more Championship matches than myself but I wasn't sure how many League matches he had played for Dublin.
"And the fact that Stephen has given no indication that he intends to retire anytime soon will probably mean that he will have a few more years in the Dublin jersey, and so have the opportunity to further increase his number of games played."
And interestingly five-time All-Star O'Leary served in a backroom role with Dublin when Cluxton, who didn't start to play Gaelic football until he was 13, having previously featured in soccer with Tolka Rovers, first broke into the senior county side back in 2001.
"In 2001, Lorcan Redmond and myself were joint-managers of the Dublin under-21 team and Stephen Cluxton was our goalkeeper," he recalled.
"But the same year, Davy Byrne, who had taken over as Dublin goalkeeper when I retired, got injured and then Tommy Carr, the manager of the Dublin senior team, of which I was a selector, gave Stephen his chance in goal for the early rounds of the Championship.
"Davy sufficiently recovered from his injury to come back for the Leinster final against Meath and Stephen went back to the bench.
"But already, we knew that Stephen had a lot of ability. However, I suppose I thought that, like many other players, he might have seven or eight years in the team, never mind 18 years playing for Dublin," added the Balbriggan native on Cluxton who played at corner-forward until he was 16.
Unsurprisingly, former Wicklow manager O'Leary is a keen follower of Dublin's football fortunes, and he feels that the clash against the Red Hands could be repeated in the contest for the Sam Maguire Cup.
"I just have this feeling that Dublin could be facing Tyrone again in the All-Ireland final," said O'Leary who now coaches the under-10 side of north county club Fingal Ravens.
"Tyrone certainly know their way in the qualifiers and after the defeat by Monaghan they have been improving from game to game, and they were certainly very impressive in their last two games against Cork and Roscommon.
"In contrast, I thought that Dublin were a bit sloppy against Donegal, so they will probably have to step up on that performance to get the better of Tyrone."
Follow the hoganstand.com live match tracker this weekend for minute-by-minute coverage of the All-Ireland SFC Super 8 phase 2 games.