McGUIRK'S BLUES ARE EAGER TO BOUNCE RIGHT BACK
DUBLIN MINOR HURLERS
DUBLIN will look to continue their incremental improvement when they face Antrim in their Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship quarter-final in Breffni Park, Cavan this Saturday afternoon (3.0).
The Dubs have delivered a string of encouraging displays and despite narrowly falling to Kilkenny by 1-17 to 1-15 in the Leinster MHC Final, manager Johnny McGuirk has been pleased with the response that he has witnessed from his panel, despite the obvious disappointment of that result.
"I think the lads feel that they left it behind them when losing to Kilkenny last Sunday fortnight," he conceded.
"Granted, the result didn't go our way but the lads can take a lot from the performance and they'll understand how important is it to close out games, especially at this level where the standard is so high.
"We got very close to beating Kilkenny and the lads have recovered well from that setback and are pushing each other very hard at training.
"The intensity has been very high in these sessions and there is a lot of energy and quality at training and that extra drive that they're showing should stand us in good stead," said McGuirk.
Of course, it wasn't just the players that were disappointed with losing a two-point lead late in the game as the Dubs looked well set for their first provincial title in three years.
However, Kilkenny finished in the ascendancy and McGuirk and his management team are well aware that there are lessons to be learned from that loss if his side are to progress in the All-Ireland series.
"I always feel that you learn more from a loss than you do from winning and it's important from a managerial perspective that we can improve as well as the players from what we witnessed against Kilkenny.
"We have spent a fair bit of time doing analysis on the match and we have focussed on the areas all over the pitch that we need to improve on.
"We have made a good amount of progress as a group over the past few months and it's important that we carry on doing that," he added.
That Dublin will need to do so is beyond argument, despite landing what many observers feel is the softer draw, pitting themselves against the Ulster champions.
However, McGuirk is highly unlikely to underestimate the challenge that Antrim will pose at the weekend and he expects another difficult encounter for his charges.
"We have had a good look at Antrim and they have impressed me with the brand of hurling that they play. They have a good management team behind them and they played well in the Ulster Final and having the game in Breffni Park is another thing that we have to add into the equation.
"The lads have been working very hard all year and it is a good opportunity for us to qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final but that will only happen if we put in the same amount of effort and application as we have done so far.
"We'll have them just right for the Antrim challenge and it is just a case of taking it one game at a time," he concluded.