herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Dubs in urgent need of a Tribal tonic

Basement battle looms unless Cunningham can inspire a backlash from his young guns

Liam Rushe returns from suspension for Dublin tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Rushe returns from suspension for Dublin tonight. Photo: Sportsfile

"We have to rebound," said Ger Cunningham in Thurles last Saturday night. It may be a statement of the bleedin' obvious yet its fundamental truth cannot be denied.

Dublin need a big performance in Donnycarney tonight. Just because you need something, though, doesn't automatically translate into it actually happening.

Compared to recent vintages, the Dublin team that Cunningham will send into Division 1A battle against Galway at Parnell Park (7.0, live Setanta Sports 1) is on the callow side ... but they'll need to man up here.

Otherwise, they face the grim spectre of a relegation battle before this campaign is barely up and running.

Beaten

Youth alone, though, does not explain why Dublin were beaten up (as opposed to merely being beaten) by Tipperary a week ago.

They laboured on the squelchy turf - scarcely a sufficient excuse given that Tipp just happened to be playing on the same pitch. Maybe they simply didn't adapt to the realisation that playing a fleet-footed possession brand of hurling is all very well in theory but not so practical when the conditions turn foul.

Yet there were other more basic weaknesses on show. Very little delivery got beyond Tipp's half-back Maginot line of Messrs Maher, Barry and Maher; and when it did, even less ball stuck inside.

As for Paul Ryan's three squandered first-half frees (including that final daft goal attempt before his inevitable half-time substitution) ... well, let's just write it off as one of those days to which the mercurial Ryan is prone.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the Dublin defence creaked in too many places. Thus, Jason Forde sniped on the breaks with deadly economy, the McGraths did their bit, John O'Dwyer came on to do what Bubbles does best, and Conor Kenny showcased his target-man credentials.

But just as well that Callanan was absent. Or that Tipp had 10 wides by the break.

It's obvious that Dublin could have done with the suspended Liam Rushe to shore up the centre, and with Paul Schutte too; but even their presence wouldn't have closed a 14-point chasm.

Optimism

At least Rushe is back from suspension tonight, and there are several other reasons for cautious Sky Blue optimism ahead of this latest rematch with their sparring partners from the west ...

(1) We'll start with the obvious: the Backlash Bye-Law.

It has happened several times before that Dublin have bounced back from a shambolic away-day in the Allianz Hurling League to produce a stirring backlash in what they like to call Fortress Parnell.

Their strike-rate is certainly impressive: they haven't lost a league or championship game at Parnell Park since March, 2011. Dublin like its narrow confines but that, of itself, won't gain them sufficient traction against Galway. They simply must perform.

(2) Another reason why all is not lost? Galway. Incorrigible Galway!

Yes, they hammered Dublin when it mattered last summer - en route to reaching the All-Ireland. Yes, they eased to day-one victory over Cork last Sunday in a manner not fully conveyed by the six-point margin. Yes, they amassed 1-27 a day after Dublin had toiled to reach 0-12. And yes, Micheál Donoghue's men will sense a pressure to deliver on an ongoing basis this season ... if only to keep the snipers at bay following their very public player heave against Anthony Cunningham.

But for all that, Galway's inconsistent streak is the stuff of legend, dating back decades.

(3) It's just four weeks since Dublin pressed on the second half acceleration to defeat Galway by nine points.

Only the Walsh Cup, you say? Perhaps. But it happened in Parnell!

Reasons, then, to dream ... but not sufficient reason to vote against the Tribesmen.

DUBLIN (SH v Galway): C Dooley; C O'Callaghan, E O'Donnell, O Gough; C Crummey, L Rushe, S Barrett; S Durkin, J McCaffrey; C Cronin, N McMorrow, D Treacy; E Dillon, D O'Callaghan, M Schutte.

ODDS: Dub 6/4 Draw 9/1 Gal 4/6

VERDICT: Galway

Allianz Hurling League Div 1A: Dublin v Galway, Parnell Park, Tonight (7.0)

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