Dublin aim to hurl up a storm
There's a backlash brewing for Cork rematch - but Sutcliffe is backing his old Blue brigade
There's a backlash coming in Croke Park tomorrow evening, that much is clear. But who exactly will be brandishing the lash?
The Cork hurlers have no particular bone to pick with Dublin (more often the victims in this particular tete-a-tete) but they need Allianz League points … in a hurry.
Cue the latent potential for a Leeside explosion in HQ, with Ger Cunningham's men caught in the firing line. Just as they were 12 months ago.
But that's one reason why it might not happen this time: Dublin desperation to avoid more Cork-inflicted carnage.
On the very same March weekend, the Blues came to Croker on a high, having torpedoed Tipperary and Kilkenny in their first two league outings under Cunningham.
By the time they made it back to the dressing-room at half-time, they were in disarray, having leaked a scarcely credible 21 points, mustering just eight of their own in reply.
"It was such a slow start," recalls Danny Sutcliffe, who played that night but has swapped the Dublin dressing-room for a new watching brief with Setanta Sports this spring. "Nothing more to it."
Dublin actually 'won' the second half (the final outcome was 0-34 to 1-20) but the damage had been done. You might even ask if they ever fully recovered their early-season mojo for the rest of the year?
Sutcliffe doesn't see it in such stark terms.
"That was just a small glitch, that first half in Croke Park. It was the only really bad half we had in the league," the 2013 All Star maintains. "We lost narrowly to Clare, beat Galway, beat Limerick ... and then we were back in the Cork game."
He's referring to that crazy roller-coaster of a NHL semi-final in Nowlan Park. And this time it was Dublin who exploded from the starting blocks: when 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan pirouetted through a parting red sea to score their second goal in the 18th minute, they led by 2-9 to 0-3. Twelve points!
Even as late as the 61st minute, they still led by seven. But they only managed one more point whereas our resurgent Rebels accelerated up the home straight with a 1-7 burst, all culminating in Seamus Harnedy's injury-time winner.
"Yeah, the last ten minutes is what cost us," says Sutcliffe. "But for ourselves, we knew we weren't as far off the pace as was portrayed after the (Croke Park) league loss."
The St Jude's man has opted out of inter-county this year but has kept a close watch on his old comrades, via a new analysis role with Setanta.
They covered Dublin's first two NHL games and will do so again for tomorrow's Dublin/Cork double-header, starting with the hurling clash at 5pm. Those first two rounds showcased the Dubs at their inconsistent worst/best - a tame 14-point surrender away to Tipperary followed by a rousing seven-point victory over Galway in Parnell Park.
"Their attitude was a lot better against Galway, and that was reflected in their turnovers and their hooks and blocks - which is stuff you can control," Sutcliffe ventures.
"And they know themselves that they're very hard to beat when they're like that. They'll be looking for a similar type of controlled aggression, and appetite for work, on Saturday. If they meet that again, the rest will look after itself."
Liam Rushe's return from suspension was key against Galway: the full-back line looked far less exposed with Dublin's centre-back sitting deep, protecting the 'D'.
"Having him there is such an insurance for the lads around him, and it allows them to have a platform where they can cut loose as well," says Sutcliffe.
As for tomorrow night, he reckons Dublin are "in a really good place" and he fancies them to secure a victory that could prove vital, with difficult away dates looming in Waterford and Kilkenny.
"Cork need the result as well, but I don't think they (Dublin) fear anyone now," says Sutcliffe. "Through the Walsh Cup they were going really well. High scoring. And then obviously the Tipp game … they had one bad day out, but that doesn't define them as a team.
"They showed the last day what they're about."