Dublin overcame Wexford comfortably in the end of last Saturday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship game at Wexford Park, avoiding a potential banana-skin. Despite Liam Dunne’s charges performing well in front of a large home support, the Dubs had enough in reserve to close out the tightly fought game. However, bigger challenges are ahead for the Dubs and the winners of the clash between Kilkenny and Galway are next up for Anthony Daly and Co.
The performances of Conal Keaney and Alan McCrabbe were the highlights of the clash on Saturday, as the pair terrorised the Yellowbellies’ half-back line, contributing 13 points between them. Danny Sutcliffe will return for the Leinster Final, to add even greater scoring threat. The loss of Mark Schutte for 6 weeks will weaken the side, but the Cuala man should be back for the following match and the latter stages of the championship, should Dublin progress that far.
However, others must step up in the forward line if the Dubs are to be considered genuine All-Ireland contenders. Dotsy O’Callaghan, David Treacy, Ryan O’Dwyer and Paul Ryan have all proven inconsistent in Dublin jerseys, especially in recent seasons. All can be individual match-winners on their day, but can equally disappear in big games making little impact. Get it right, and the Dubs will be there or there about come September.
When Daly took over in 2009, Dublin took two steps forward, only to go one back the following year. A first Leinster Final appearance since 1991 heralded progress, but was followed up with a loss to Antrim in the qualifiers in 2010. This process was repeated in 2011 and 2012, with a league triumph and semi-final berth secured, the Dubs went stale 12 months later, ending the summer prematurely in Ennis at the hands of Clare.
Another stride was taken in 2013, capturing the Bob O’Keeffe Cup for the first time since 1961. This time around, a flop year is not an option, it is time for Dublin to begin delivering on the promise they have showed to date.
Wexford were widely fancied to cause an upset in their own back yard. Hurling in the county is making a comeback, and what better way to announce themselves back in the big-time than a victory against the reigning Leinster champions? But Dublin have learned from their mistakes of the past. Driving in the car last Thursday night, Daly turned off the radio, fed up of listening to how his side were going to be caught cold footed on Saturday night. Despite the championship been in the early rounds Daly looks to have his troops focused and looking towards a September showdown.
The Leinster final is a massive tie for the future of hurling in the capital. Victory would cement their place at the top of the pile in the province, a luxury they have not enjoyed in living memory. However, a loss would restore the old order, and the 2013 triumph will be written off as a flash in the pan.
Whoever emerges victorious from the other semi-final will be ready for what the Dubs have to throw at them. The Cats or Tribesmen will not fear Dublin, but the manner in which the Dubs weathered the storm in Wexford suggests that they will not be overwhelmed in the decider.
Dublin have qualified for the final six in this year’s race for Liam McCarthy, and the importance of the Leinster Championship aside, they are well set up for an assault on the All-Ireland championship. This is a team several years in the making, and are beginning to hit their peak after so much time and money has been invested in Dublin Hurling.
1000 years ago in 1014, a Clareman lead a group of Dubliner’s to victory as Brian Boru’s forces were victorious in Clontarf. The signs are there that his county-man may follow suit a millennium later, this time it may be Anthony Daly leading the men into unknown territory.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena