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Saturday 10 December 2016

Johnny McCaffrey: We have to improve if we want to beat Limerick

Dublin will have to make their own luck against Treaty

Johnny McCaffrey, Dublin, in action against Rob O'Shea, Cork
Johnny McCaffrey, Dublin, in action against Rob O'Shea, Cork

YOU couldn't but surmise that Dublin have gotten more than a smidgeon lucky since their Galway farce of a month ago.

First, they draw Laois when they had a three in four chance of drawing a Munster bantamweight and thus, a chance to not only construct a little confidence and jump start their ailing summer but also giving Ger Cunningham the opportunity to spice up a stodgy team badly in need of some zest.

Then, yesterday morning, they get Limerick rather than Clare for a spot in the All-Ireland quarter-final and the prize of both relevance and redemption.

Dangerous opposition? Yes.

As potentially brilliant as a restocked Clare? No.

So if not quite a plumb draw, almost certainly the lesser of two potential evils.

"We needed that, we needed to get back on the horse after the last day," reflected Johnny McCaffrey after the Laois win, the severity of which was probably a little over-estimated by the final 10-point margin.

"It's just great to get back into Championship hurling and to get a win I suppose.

"Laois would have been smarting after their defeat and so were we.

"Playing in their home patch they were never going to give up anything easy, neither were we so it was a tough physical Championship game and it was great to get at this time of year."

Laois are only heading one direction but they're still several land marks shy of Dublin's current destination, even if Cunningham's team displayed a chronic inability to turn their obvious superiority into a bigger scoreline.

"A lot to work on, absolutely," McCaffrey conceded.

"We had 24 wides altogether I think. It's a lot in a game like that. We have a lot of work to do during the week. We have to step it up a level next week ."

Still, it's hard to gauge how Cunningham's changes will hold up on Saturday in what will be a markedly different atmosphere and against significantly improved opposition.

True, Dublin beat Limerick easily in the League quarter-final in Croke Park.

But that team sheet has been shredded by Cunningham in the mean time and he's probably passed the point of no return in that regard.

And while Thurles is technically a neutral venue, it's a second home to all non-Tipp Munster hurling counties and not somewhere Dublin have often displayed their best efforts.

So if this team was yearning for some youthful verve prior to the Laois game and got it in the form of Eamonn Dillon and Cian Boland, next Saturday may well be the time for experience and calm.

For his part, McCaffrey has been dropped, restored, dropped again and then restored again by Cunningham this year but his spot in midfield is secure for next weekend after a display in linking/sweeping/anchoring on Saturday.

"It's a team game, there's 32 or 33 lads on the panel. Everyone is fighting for their places," he commented.

"Lads came in tonight and did well, the next day there'll probably be changes to the panel again.

"Listen, it's a team effort and everyone is buying into that and that's the key thing if we want to go far, one to 32 has to be kicking on."

Cunningham's Laois selection was bold.

Shane Barrett defended well but was most culpable for 'Cha' Dwyer's scoring influence.

Boland was sprightly and enthusiastic but not always measured and clinical and as such, Cunningham may yet decide the old dogs know the hard road in Thurles the best next weekend.

One things is certain, though.

Conal Keaney brings more to the Dublin attack right now than Liam Rushe.

And Liam Rushe brings more to the Dublin defence than Conal Keaney.

"He's a great target man to have as well," said McCaffrey of Keaney.

"Conal's experienced, he's been around a long time and it's great to have an old head like that around the place as well."

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