danny out those cork
Dubs must be fully 'switched on' to prevent a repeat of recent Croker choker - Sutcliffe
ONE of the most refreshing things about Danny Sutcliffe - apart from his effervescence on the pitch - is his straight shooting ways off it.
The Dublin hurler calls it as he sees it. He doesn't cloak upcoming events in banal "all about performance" cliché. He doesn't shy away from candid self-criticism. And yet he always sounds as if he can't wait for the next challenge.
Which just so happens to be Cork in Nowlan Park (throw-in 2.0 tomorrow, live on TG4), in the first of two Allianz League Division One semi-finals at the Kilkenny venue.
And that also just so happens to be Dublin's first chance to avenge their most humbling experience of a generally upbeat campaign - a meeting in Croke Park last month which ended in a 0-34 to 1-20 victory for a Cork side that plundered 21 points in the first half alone.
"With the four teams it might make for a good atmosphere instead of a half-full stadium. It has that feeling of a nice championship warm-up," Sutcliffe began.
"I am just delighted that we have another chance to face Cork again in case we meet them along the road again - just to exorcise the demons of Croke Park a few weeks ago.
"It was probably our only bad half of hurling in the league. We lost to Clare obviously but we performed somewhat to a decent level that day. But against Cork we just got blown away."
Let's do the forensics: what happened?
"The first two line balls ... I just wasn't switched on. We were coming in from a high from the Tipperary and Kilkenny games, so maybe it brought us back down to earth," he surmises.
"I was shifted out of midfield very quickly after those two line balls, and I was annoyed with myself for that. Simply not being switched on - you are preparing well for games so, on the day, it is just about being mentally prepared."
The 2013 All Star dismisses the theory, peddled in the aftermath, that Croke Park is a 'problem' for this Dublin team.
"I'd say that was put to bed with the Limerick game," he reasons, referencing their 1-25 to 0-16 quarter-final cakewalk. Mark Schutte, scoring 1-5 from play in a bravura performance that left former All Star full-back Richie McCarthy with twisted blood, was the pick of a group that looks to have regained its February fluency.
"The elephant in the room is that people only think you can play in Parnell Park," says Sutcliffe. "You saw the way we performed and moved the ball the last day - I'd prefer to be in Croke Park with players like Mark, with his pace and power. I don't think that's an issue. It was just that game; it was a poor performance."
Time to right the wrongs - or even exorcise the demons.
Whether Dublin's problem, the last day, stemmed from mentally switching off after a flying league start is a moot point ... what the first half especially proved is that if you allow those Cork forwards any latitude in terms of time and space, they will crucify you.
By evening's end, four of them (Seamus Harnady, Rob O'Shea, Luke O'Farrell and Patrick Horgan) had accumulated 17 points from play; Horgan added ten frees as prolific adornment.
All four start tomorrow - as do Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan. They only managed a point apiece in Croker last month; and yet, when in the zone, this duo are every bit as elusive and dangerous.
Cork struggled for the same fluency in their quarter-final against Wexford, struggling to master a swirling wind, but they still dominated the second half to turn a six-point interval deficit into a four-point win.
If both teams play to potential, this promises to be a tit-for-tat shootout with Cork marginally favoured.
ODDS: Cork 8/13 Draw 9/1 Dublin 13/8
allianz hl semi-final: dublin v cork, live tg4, tomorrow (2.0)