herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Step up in class too much for Dublin to make

SHC Qualifier: Dublin v Tipperary (Semple Stadium, Tonight, 5.0)

Liam Rushe’s move to halfforward last week was not a major success. Pic: Sportsfile
Liam Rushe’s move to halfforward last week was not a major success. Pic: Sportsfile

A reliable measure of Dublin's wellbeing wasn't forthcoming at Parnell Park last Saturday.

They did what they had to do, enjoyed the fruits of some fine individual performances and moved quietly on, their ability to withstand what awaits in Thurles this evening still largely unknown.

Ger Cunningham was eager to point out afterwards that the Galway performance had been roundly decried as unacceptable by the inhabitants of the Dublin dressing-room.

Yet given the season they have had, we still don't know where Dublin's form lies.

Challenge

Against Laois, players like Ben Quinn and debutants Fionn Ó Riain Broin and Cian O'Sullivan put in the sort of shift which ensured selection against the All-Ireland champions tomorrow.

Ronan Maher is a quality defender for Tipp. Pic: Sportsfile
Ronan Maher is a quality defender for Tipp. Pic: Sportsfile

The problem for Cunningham is that the challenge offered at Parnell Park didn't give him accurate indicators for how those players may fare in such esteemed company this evening.

And then there's the Liam Rushe issue.

With Chris Crummey, Shane Barrett and Seán Moran, Cunningham is spoiled for choice of aerially-gifted half-backs.

He is not, however, so laden down with ball-winning half-forwards. Hence, Rushe's relocation.

On a day when practically everything worked for Dublin against a Laois team who took the pitch without a scatter of their most influential players, Rushe's posting was a mixed bag at best.

What went against him was Dublin's preference to go short on Conor Dooley's puck-outs when available.

It’s hard to see what Ger Cunningham has done to solve Dublin’s primary possession issues. Pic: Sportsfile
It’s hard to see what Ger Cunningham has done to solve Dublin’s primary possession issues. Pic: Sportsfile

Then, when the Dublin keeper went long in the first half, the gusting wind at Parnell Park held the sliothar too long and too high for Rushe to be able to attack it.

"It's something we've looked at in the last couple of weeks to see if it's an option," Cunnigham explained afterwards.

"Liam is one of those that will play anywhere to play in a Dublin jersey. It doesn't matter to him once he can contribute in some shape or form.

"We've been trying it the last couple of weeks in training. I thought he worked fierce hard tonight. He got on a lot of ball."

Not that Dublin won't need ball-winners in Thurles tonight but they may well need to employ seven defenders a bit more against a Tipperary team who, although similarly unsure of themselves just now, contain a rare variety of quality forwards.

But, it's difficult to see what measures Cunningham has taken to solve Dublin's inability to win primary possession.

Against Kilkenny in Portlaoise last year, the Cats squeezed for all their worth in the second half and forced Dooley long.

Once they did, it was a massacre at 10 feet above ground level.

The simple positioning of Rushe is unlikely to generate enough possession to feed Dublin's forwards against a team that counts Paudie and Ronan Maher among their half-backs.

Then there's the goals issue.

To win a match of this magnitute, Dublin will likely have to score at least two.

They got two against Laois, both belters from Eamonn Dillon, but missed three clear-cut chances in the first half and given they dominated the game to the extent where they scored 1-14 without reply at one stage, another couple of goals mightn't have been an unreasonable request.

Delighted

They got six in the League but goal scoring always appears a much more natural purusit for Tipperary.

The champs, though, aren't without their issues.

Their performance against Westmeath was flat, so much so that they will have been silently delighted to pull Dublin out of the draw, given the quality of the alternatives.

Seamus Callanan came off, as did Michael Breen and it took Mick Ryan no time at all afterwards to clarify both were pulled for reasons of performance and nothing else.

If there is a forceful kick back to come from Tipperary this summer, they seem to be leaving it until the last minute to reveal themselves.

Yet for all that, they started without John McGrath in attack the last day and have the most complete forward line in the country - Galway included.

A neutral venue might have put a bit more doubt into this one but while Tipp might be struggling for their best form, they at least know it's somewhere inside them.

ODDS: Dublin 7/1, Draw 16/1, Tipperary 1/10

VERDICT: Tipperary

Promoted articles

Entertainment News