Friday 28 October 2016

It's time for Dublin's leaders to stand up

Schutte hopes for very positive reaction after Blues' lesson from the All-Ireland champions

Dublin’s Mark Schutte in action against Cork’s Killian Burke during the Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A clash at Croke Park in March. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Dublin’s Mark Schutte in action against Cork’s Killian Burke during the Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A clash at Croke Park in March. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

The thing about Kilkenny's all-singing, all-dancing, seemingly-never-ending ruthless brilliance is that this week holds some familiarity for Dublin.

You can't play your hurling in such geographic proximity to the Cats without living to absorb the sort of beating meted out in O'Moore Park a couple of weeks ago and thus, cultivate the experience of what it takes to keep the wagon with its full complement of wheels.

"It's really up to the leaders on the team now to really step up and drive the team on," says Mark Schutte, whose very presence was precisely - but by no means exclusively - what Dublin so painfully lacked against a Kilkenny defence gleefully plucking the sliotar from the Portlaoise sky in that unerring second half spell a few Saturdays back.

"We can go one of two ways: we can either pack it in and just cry about what happened there or we can go back and have a good fight at it."

Just last year, Dublin digested the bitter pill jammed down their collective throats by Galway in Tullamore to such an extent that they cobbled together a decent win against Limerick in Thurles in the next round.

"Plenty of teams have gone on and won All-Irelands through the backdoor," Schutte points out, sounding the most optimistically bright note imaginable.

"That's going to have to be our ambition. Go and target that match (on Saturday against Cork) and really get a bit of redemption."

At various opportunities this year, Ger Cunningham and his players have repeated their group's motto 'win or learn' so to accept that they stayed loyal to that particular maxim over the past few weeks is to presume that their education has been furthered more in a fortnight than in the pre-Kilkenny-massacre part of the season.


Schutte had a ringside view of it all after suffering an ill-timed injury in the week of the game and he reckons: "It's probably easier looking on from my point of view.

"The first half looked like it really took its toll on the lads.

"Kilkenny are the masters. They're non-stop. They're relentless.

"We probably didn't match them for the 70 minutes.

"We probably just put it up to them for the 35. Then we died off."

"It's a lot easier playing these matches. At least then you feel like you can do something but yeah, you're just a spectator.During the first half, I was quite happy watching it. It was comfortable viewing," he explained.

And for that period, Dublin looked to be playing with a confidence that suggested they fully expected to win - not always a guarantee against Kilkenny.


"We looked like we had put ourselves in a comfortable position to go and win the game.

"But the 15 minutes after half-time was definitely tough. You felt you could have made an impact.

"But yeah, it's probably something we'll have to work on - those 15 minutes after half-time.

If there were indicators during that half of what was to come, there was certainly no hint of the crushing intensity with which it would be delivered.

Conor Dooley's puckouts came under extreme, withering pressure.

Those receiving his short restarts were swallowed whole. And Dooley's long pucks were devoured without seasoning by Paul Murphy, Cillian Buckley et al.

"They pushed up on our puckouts and then they broke us down a bit," Schutte outlines.

"They put the squeeze on and worked themselves into the game a little bit more.

"In the first half, we met them with a good intensity and didn't let them play. Then, we probably stepped off them a little bit, which probably gave them space to breath.

"If you step off Kilkenny in any way, they'll hit you with 1-8 in 15 minutes. That's what happened to us. And it's something we'll address.

"Because give them any chance whatsoever and they'll take it.

"They're going for three-in-a-row," the Cuala forward reasons.

"They really are the standard-bearers. For the first half, we really put ourselves in a position to really win the game.

"But it's probably the consistency over 70 minutes. If you don't match that and you give them a glimmer of hope, they'll put you to the sword. And they did."

Dublin's failure was multi-faceted, though.

Not only did they lose most of the individual battles, but their possession/movement-based game-plan short-circuited - albeit under severe stress - to such an extent that they ended up being forced to play Kilkenny at their own near-unbeatable game.

"Clare have probably shown that you can go another way. They wouldn't have the tallest forward line but they work ways around it," Schutte argues.

"But Kilkenny have won the last two All-Irelands and it's not an easy thing to do: break them down. We'd love to get another shot at them. We'd love to have another crack and see how we get on.

"But for the moment, we just have to concentrate on the first round of qualifiers," he says of Saturday's trip to Páirc Uí Rinn (7.0), a match for which Schutte hopes to take a more active part after returning to training this week.


"Obviously," Schutte adds, "everyone is disappointed the way it ended against Kilkenny and you don't want to end your season like that.

"It's great that we have another chance to prove ourselves again," he concludes with a positive sentiment.

"It's great to get another shot at it now and not leave the summer like we did against Kilkenny."

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