Minors must be strong mentally
Dubs boss Fanning believes Kilkenny enjoy a psychological advantage
DUBLIN'S manager Pat Fanning feels his side are at a slight disadvantage ahead of Sunday's eagerly anticipated Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship final against Kilkenny at Croke Park (2.00).
The Dubs may have enjoyed an emphatic 11-point victory over the Cats at Nowlan Park back in late April but the gap between the sides evident that day has surely narrowed with Kilkenny handed an added motivation after their humiliation in scoring just a point from play over the hour in that 2-8 to 0-3 defeat.
Kilkenny have regrouped from that defeat to record encouraging wins over Carlow and Laois and will enjoy the prospect of turning the tables on the Dubs when it matters most.
"I certainly would not mind being in Kilkenny's position," said Fanning, who conceded that his side enjoyed all the fortune going in that bizarre clash back in late April.
"There are days when everything goes your way and that is what happened when we played against them earlier in the campaign and the opposite applied to Kilkenny, who just couldn't get a bounce of the ball all day.
"Sometimes matches evolve like that, but we have drummed into the lads from that day that the result was not reflective of the respective abilities of either side.
"From a motivation side of things, Kilkenny's management will have little difficulty in getting their lads up for Sunday but I'm fairly confident that our lads will be in good shape and won't read anything into what happened eight weeks ago."
Apart from any perceived psychological advantage that Kilkenny may enjoy, there is no question that the holders have improved significantly from that uncharacteristically shoddy performance over two months ago. There is, without question, more fluidity and direction to their play, as witnessed by their successive wins over Carlow and Laois through the back door.
That win over Laois, in which the Cats amassed 1-21, impressed Fanning, who appreciates that Kilkenny have further scope for improvement given their upward curve of development.
"The win over Laois showed that Kilkenny are right back on track and I was impressed by what I saw from their forwards that day.
"By all accounts, there has been huge intensity in their training since they lost to us and their focus in very much set on righting the wrong as they see it after our earlier clash.
"They have a strong and balanced side now, which I'm not sure was the case earlier in the year and we are very much expecting an early onslaught from them on Sunday," he said.
The difficulties inherent in meeting opposition that you have previously beaten was all too evident as Dublin laboured to a semi-final win over Wexford last Saturday week, having comfortably accounted for the Model County earlier in the year.
Wexford tore into Dublin that day and were considered unfortunate by many not to have beaten a Dublin side that had comfortably repelled their challenge in that previous meeting in Piercestown in mid-April.
That Dublin eventually progressed by the narrowest of margins last Saturday week reflected well on their mental toughness and they will need to show similar fortitude against Kilkenny on Sunday.
Of added concern to the Waterford native is the injuries that accrued from their semi-final win with Na Fianna's Matthew Oliver definitely ruled out after suffering a broken bone in his foot that day.
Paul O'Dea is hindered at present by a heel injury while Dublin's talisman against Wexford, Rian McBride, is another worry for Fanning with the St Vincent's player a doubt due to a niggling hand injury.
On a more positive note, Eoghan Conroy made a lively return to county colours as substitute against Wexford and that is rated as a "huge plus" by Fanning.
"We are where we want to be with a Leinster final to look forward to and a place in the All-Ireland series already secured. We'll go out and enjoy ourselves and hopefully play to our ability on the day," he added.