Wednesday 16 January 2019

Daly to drive on injury-hit Dubs

WALSH CUP (SH) FINAL: DUBLIN v KILKENNY (Parnell Park, Tomorrow 2.0)

FOR the Dublin hurlers, it seems as if every silver lining has a cloud just now. No sooner had Conal Keaney devoted his considerable abilities to the cause than Alan McCrabbe was ruled out for the entire league with a worrying hip injury.

"What God gave us with Conal Keaney, he took away with Alan McCrabbe," was Anthony Daly's biblical assessment of the situation, another memorable quote to add to the pile.

And almost as quick as Ryan O'Dwyer produced the sort of performance that hinted he was the style and quality of hurler Dublin need in their forward line against Galway last week, the Tipperary native incurs a shoulder injury and is ruled out for roughly six weeks at a key stage of the season.


It goes on. Shane Ryan starts showing glimpses of the sort of hurling that once made him the best player in the county and Maurice O'Brien goes and picks up an ankle knock thus keeping him out of action for an estimated four weeks.

His midfielder partner, Johnny McCaffrey, was sent off on a straight red card last Saturday and now misses tomorrow's Walsh Cup final and Dublin's opening two league matches and it's clear now that Daly must battle injury and suspension for the considerable part of their NHL Division 1 campaign.

As he might say himself though, Dublin must drive on. That Dublin have only four players on their bench for tomorrow's final illustrates perfectly though just how short on numbers they are between the above ailments, long-term injury and college commitments.

A brand new midfield of Shane Ryan and Shane Durkin take to Parnell Park tomorrow while Martin Quilty makes his first competitive appearance at wing-back, old war horse Liam Ryan is restored to centre-forward and Declan O'Dwyer -- impressive in his bench cameos thus far -- begins the match on the edge of the square.

Quilty's performance will be interesting following his elevation from the Under 21s and if he is to thrive this year, a greater aerial prowess is needed in that area.

For Kilkenny, tomorrow's final might have caught them somewhat by surprise. Brian Cody didn't even attend their opening round defeat of NUIG as he simultaneously held a training session with his squad in Kilkenny City while a scratch team of minor and Under 21 players put them through.

Their team is unrecognisable now, however. Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney and John Tennyson form as formidable half-back line as you're likely to see all year and for Conor McCormack, Liam Ryan and Keaney, the immediate task is to challenge their superiority to ensure every Dublin defensive clearance doesn't come straight back down the pitch.

Michael Rice is set to start at centre-forward again and the warning signs for were there in Parnell Park with Ger Farragher last week that Joey Boland needs to do a more focused marking job to limit the scores from that area of the pitch.

There won't be any Henry Shefflin or Eddie Brennan or even Martin Comerford for Kilkenny, but that doesn't really matter a whole lot.


The likes of Richie Hogan, John Mulhall, Eoin Larkin and Aidan Fogarty are back and hungry and seemingly sharp.

Hogan, in particular, caught the eye against Laois last week, scoring two goals after moving from wing-forward to the edge of the square.

It's all of eight years since Johnny McGuirk whipped over that point in injury time in Donnycarney to clinch Dublin's last Walsh Cup success and, in truth, a win tomorrow would be every bit as memorable, even allowing for the giant strides Dublin have made in the interim.

Right now though, with such a cast of millions in the injury dock, just a performance will do.

ODDS: Dublin 2/1, Draw 10/1, Kilkenny 2/5

VERDICT: Kilkenny

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