Friday 21 October 2016

Dubs' depth is vital for final

Minor boss McGuirk has fully fit squad to pick from for the challenge of facing Cats at Croker

Dublin manager Johnny McGuirk has stressed the need for improvement from his team ahead of their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship final against Kilkenny at Croke Park next Sunday afternoon (2.00).

The Dubs have impressed in getting past both Offaly and Westmeath en route to the decider but the Cats will offer a tougher challenge again according to the McGuirk.

"It's a tough championship at this level and the further you progress in the championship, the tougher the games are," conceded McGuirk.

"We have done well to get to a Leinster final and the lads are going very well but we know that we have more difficult games ahead of us and it's important that we continue to focus on what we're doing and take it from there," he added.

What will encourage McGuirk is the relative health of his panel, with all 34 members of his extended squad fighting fit and striving to be included in the match-day 24.

The collective effort of this Dublin panel has been an underlying theme through the early parts of this campaign with competition for places helping to drive the group forward.

McGuirk has not been afraid to change a winning team with the depth and talent at his disposal leading to some serious selection headaches for himself and his selectors.

"The hardest thing for the management is trying to select the 24 that will be available to us for any particular match and that means there are ten players who have worked tremendously hard but will not get to tog out.

"All of the lads have put in a massive effort and the group dynamic has been very encouraging with the attitude and application of the lads all that we could ask for.

"They work so hard to be involved for the games and that makes everyone maintain the high standards that have been a feature of our training sessions," added the former Craobh Chiaráin player.

Dublin's training has gone well since their comfortable semi-final win over Westmeath last Saturday week and the buzz within the camp has only increased with Kilkenny on the horizon, especially with a Leinster title at stake.

Given the relative inexperience of the panel, Sunday will present a first opportunity for many of the panel to play on such a large stage but McGuirk insists that his side will cope admirably irrespective of their collective callowness.

"It's a great occasion for all the players to be involved in and especially as we are playing against the current Leinster and All-Ireland holders.

"However, while we have the height of respect for Kilkenny and know that we have a tough game ahead, we are purely focused on what we have to do next Sunday.

"To have a chance, we need to adhere to our plan and tactics and prepare as well as we can for the challenge that is in front of us.

"We will continue to play to our strengths as a panel and continue to back each other up and support each other like we have been doing all year at training, challenge matches and in our two games so far in the championship against Offaly and Westmeath.

"Kilkenny may be the standard-bearer in Leinster and they never seem to have a poor team out any day but we are definitely not allowing ourselves to think too much about them and we are certainly going out there with a view to winning the game," said McGuirk.

With a place in the All-Ireland series already secured, irrespective of Sunday's result, the 'winner-takes-all' scenario does not attach itself to the encounter with the winner enjoying a longer break as they automatically advance to the semi-finals while the beaten team will need to go down the qualifier route.

However, Dublin's focus is purely on progressing through the front door as the county strives for its first provincial title since Cian O'Callaghan led Dublin to Leinster glory back in 2012.

"I feel that we're in a very good place," said McGuirk.

"We have no injury concerns affecting any of our extended panel and that is very encouraging, that the players are all fighting fit and looking forward to Sunday's match.

"We need to ensure that the players are concentrating on the simple things and although it is a big day for all of them, the emphasis on the game-plan is what is important now.

"Croke Park is a big pitch and that's a different scenario to the two games we have played so far but as I have said before, the lads just need to do what they have been doing to take them to this point and if they manage to do that, the result will take care of itself.

"Of course, whoever loses on Sunday has a second chance but the bonus of having a six-week break before your next match is a huge incentive.

"We can't look too far ahead and we will take every game as it comes.

"If we get the basics right, we feel we can do ourselves justice," concluded McGuirk.

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