Tipp to wake up for Dub test
After opening league loss, the All-Ireland champions can get first win at Croker
Allianz hurling league division one
DUBLIN v TIPPERARY
(Croke Park, Tonight 5.15, live Setanta Ire)
TWO teams with wildly contrasting memories of their last visits to Croke Park return to the GAA's very own Theatre of Dreams/Nightmares this evening.
For every current Dublin hurler, you suspect, the word "Antrim" is etched deep in the psyche after the calamitous fade-out of last July. If not, then Anthony Daly won't be long reminding them.
For every Tipperary hurler, conversely, September 2010 will never be forgotten. This was the crowning moment when three years of meticulous planning and constant graft came to glorious fruition in the guise of Lar Corbett's hat-trick and the thrilling deconstruction of Kilkenny's fabled drive-for-five.
But time moves on and ditto with All-Ireland winning managers. Liam Sheedy promptly exited stage left, to be replaced by a Premier playing icon in Declan Ryan.
Time moves on in other ways too: last weekend the new Allianz League season kicked off and while Dublin played out a high-scoring stalemate in Waterford, Ryan was given a rude awakening (if one were needed) about the likely source of his greatest challenge next summer.
Last Saturday night's 1-17 to 1-10 defeat was disappointing on a number of fronts for Tipperary, but it wasn't entirely surprising either.
There was always the suspicion that a suitably vengeful Kilkenny would want it more against rivals still basking in the warm glow of last September -- not to mention the hot sun of Jamaica in January.
So it transpired: from being five points up after 22 minutes, the Tipperary performance went completely flat once Kilkenny upped the ante. The latter hit harder, were sharper to the breaks, and Tipp appeared resigned to their fate throughout the second half.
Now for the hard question: how will all of this impact on tonight's intriguing collision of champions and pretenders?
The early league rounds can be notoriously difficult to second-guess. Just to emphasise that point, consider how Dublin travelled to Waterford last February with high hopes only to suffer a 13-point crash. The following week, suitably stung, they inflicted a crushing nine-point defeat on Tipp.
This time, you might argue, the sliotar is on the other foot: the vaunted visitors are the ones craving a backlash performance.
Daly has described Tipp's opening night defeat as "probably the ideal result from Declan Ryan's point of view" ... the Dublin boss may be indulging in mind-games but you can see where he's coming from.
The good news for Dublin is that the opposition are a long way off optimum strength, especially up front where Noel McGrath (who picked up a knock on Fitzgibbon Cup duty with UCD) has now joined such other notable absentees as Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett and John O'Brien.
Consequently, a Tipp full-forward line including two league debutants (Paddy Fanning and Seán Carey) plus another relative novice (John O'Neill) has a very callow look.
Everywhere else, however, they look formidable and it goes without saying that Dublin cannot afford another 27-minute scoring lull, as happened during their Walsh Park deadlock.
More positively, however, Dublin hurled superbly for most of the first half in Waterford with Conal Keaney making a seamless return to elite inter-county hurling when he was central to the Dubs' early dominance and finished the day with 0-10 (including eight frees) in the kitty.
With Joey Boland restored to full health -- and centre-back -- Daly's men have a real fighting chance given the weakened state of that Tipp attack.
Countering that is the backlash theory: the All-Ireland champions simply cannot countenance back-to-back defeats, can they?
ODDS: Dublin 9/4, Draw 10/1, Tipp 2/5
DUBLIN: G Maguire; S Hiney, T Brady, S Lambert; N Corcoran, J Boland, S Durkin; J McCaffrey, S Ryan; C Keaney, D O'Dwyer, C McCormack; D O'Callaghan, L Rushe, P Carton.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; D Young, C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher; B Maher, S McGrath; G Ryan, P Bourke, Patrick Maher; J O'Neill, P Fanning, S Carey.