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Sunday 25 September 2016

blues off to strong start

Depth of panel is key to Dublin's chances says McGuirk

As opening days go, there was much for Dublin's supporters to enthuse over after their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship Round 2 success over Offaly in Parnell Park last Saturday.

The Dubs may have started on the back foot but they showed sufficient nerve and ability to finish strongly, claiming a well-deserved 2-17 to 0-13 victory.

Naturally, the relative strength of their opponents must be taken into consideration when assessing the ambitions of this particular Dublin crop but given the inexperienced make-up of their side, it was an encouraging opening salvo by Johnny McGuirk's charges.

Certainly, the likes of corner-back Conor Ryan of Craobh Chiaráin and Paddy Smyth from Clontarf did their prospects no harm whatsoever with compelling defensive displays, showing few signs of nerves on what was their championship debuts.

"We got off to a shaky start," conceded McGuirk.

"You could see that Offaly had the benefit of having already played when they beat Carlow two weeks ago and they raced into an early four-point lead.

pleasing

"What was pleasing was that we didn't panic when our start wasn't as good as we would have hoped and we kept trying to do the right thing and thankfully, we got the right result at the end.

"Some of the lads were definitely nervous so it was encouraging to see them keep to the game-plan and work their way out of trouble," he added.

Dublin struggled initially to get much return from their full-forward line but with the wind at their backs after the break, they looked a far more threatening unit.

Whether that was down to the elements alone seems unfair given the input that the Dubs enjoyed from the bench.

comfortable

Certainly, Ciarán Dowling looked comfortable when introduced at wing-back while Eoghan Conroy was particularly effective at wing-forward with the St Maur's player offering Dublin a further option from puck-outs.

Conroy, a third year veteran at minor level, will surely play a more prominent role as the campaign evolves with McGuirk conscious of the need to re-energise the team during the course of the game.

"I've said all year that hurling at this level is a 20-man game and I think Saturday proved that," he offered.

"We believe that to win games at this high level, you need a very strong panel and that is what we are trying to develop here.

"We demand a lot of effort from all the lads so it is definitely physically demanding on them

"It's very hard to sustain that kind of effort all the way through the match so to have players of strong calibre and work ethic coming off the bench is very important for us.

"We have some good options at the moment but you're learning all the time about the strengths and weaknesses of the players and it is only really in the heat of championship battle that you get a really good idea about certain individuals and the team as a whole," said McGuirk.

What Saturday's results elsewhere showed is that Leinster is going to be a very competitive and a hard won championship.

Provincial and All-Ireland holders Kilkenny required extra-time to eventually get the better of a Wexford team that has already shown their worth when winning the Leinster Minor Hurling League.

Throw a talented and free-scoring Laois into the mix and Dublin's task of regaining the Leinster title last secured in 2012 looks all the more difficult.

Given the two-month break that awaits Dublin now, how they spend that time will prove instructive to their chances but McGuirk is confident that the enforced break due to Leaving Certificate commitments will not unduly affect his preparations.

"We are going to take a week off this week and let the players take a little break from their training as they have put in a great shift over the past few months.

"During the week, the management will get together and work out a plan of action for the coming weeks as we need to be able to hit the ground running for our semi-final on the 20th of June.

"Having some lads doing their Leaving Cert is not ideal but it's important that they get enough time for their studies and it's the same for all the other counties involved in the championship.

peak

"We will be looking for them to peak in eight weeks' time and we will all sit down together and work out a plan.

"We are lucky to have some very good people involved behind the scenes and we will all make sure that we do the right thing for the players," he added.

As for Dublin's chances of provincial success, McGuirk is solely focussed on what awaits Dublin in June but there is certainly a positive feel emanating from the camp following Saturday's performance.

With quite a number of newcomers introduced, that can only benefit the side but McGuirk is well aware that tougher challenges lie ahead irrespective of how well the team is going.

"Leinster is very competitive this year and it is very important that we've managed to secure a semi-final spot.

"There are some very strong teams left in the championship and we know it is going to be tough, whoever we get," he concluded.

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