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Monday 18 December 2017

Blues take control

Boland jubilant as Dubs book final return after clawing Cats

ON an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Blues in the midlands, there was much to admire in Dublin's five-point win over Kilkenny in their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final in Portlaoise last Saturday.

On a dirty day for hurling, it was Dublin's character and intensity that was the marked difference between the sides with Dublin manager Shay Boland conscious of how crucial coming out on top in the 50/50 challenges was towards the final outcome.

"It is something that we have worked hard on in the past few weeks, especially around the middle third, and of course we are a big, fit, physical team," said the St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh clubman.

"We have trained very hard for the past few months so it was no real surprise that we put in a performance like that, although the conditions certainly controlled the game to some degree. We were very happy with it."

Targeted

"It was a game we targeted a long time ago. Once we got beaten by Wexford (in the opening round), we knew we were in Kilkenny's side of the draw.

"We certainly didn't fear them and the most important thing last week in the build-up was stressing the level of performance we required and that hopefully the result would take care of itself, which thankfully it did", said Boland.

The Dubs have now reached their third successive Leinster final and the confidence derived by players of the calibre of Seán McClelland and Cormac Costello, who both featured in 2010 and 2011, has motivated the side since the opening round loss to Wexford.

Both McClelland and Costello have been tried in new positions since then, with the latter enjoying a new lease of life in centrefield as he contributed hugely to Dublin's win, according to Boland.

"As for Cormac, to be honest, that is something that I swore I would never do - moving him from the corner-forward position. Cormac Ryan (last year's goalkeeper) suggested that to me so he has to take a lot of the credit for the switch happening," said Boland.

"We felt that we would need to get him into the game as much as possible and his work-rate and athleticism is huge and he's a key player for us, as he showed again on Saturday," he added.

Dublin look far more settled now as a result, with their cause also helped by the recovery from injury of Eric Lowndes and Colm Cronin, two veterans of last year's run to the All-Ireland Final.

Influential

Both looked understandably rusty early on but settled to play hugely influential roles and their return to the panel could not be better timed.

Boland said: "Colm and Eric are big players for us as they were last year.

"From our point of view, we're delighted to have them back and it is full steam ahead for the pair of them ahead of the Leinster Final.

"Eoghan O'Donnell was also outstanding out there and ever since we got him back from the footballers he has blossomed.

"He got in there largely due to Eric's injury but showed great leadership, as did all the lads," he concluded.

The Dubs face Wexford in the Leinster MHC final on Sunday, July 8 in Croke Park.

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