Dublin to edge depleted Deise
Daly's men can avenge last year's Walsh Park pasting
ALLIANZ NHL DIVISION 1
WATERFORD v DUBLIN
(Walsh Park, Tomorrow 2.30, deferred TG4)
IF ever there was a perfect opening fixture for the Dublin hurlers to focus the minds, this is it. In fact, if Anthony Daly was drafted in to the CCCC and asked his preference for a league opener, away to Waterford on day one would probably be his first choice.
Not that Waterford are some form of easy scalp or that Dublin have psychologically bunny-hopped the Déise in the hurling standards all of a sudden.
No. Walsh Park and Waterford is the ideal cocktail for day one of the season proper for Dublin solely because of what happened in the same place to the same team at the same time of last year.
Dublin were rotten that day and a team of fresh-faced Waterford youngsters battered them by 14 points. Daly, honest as usual, admitted afterwards that the vibe was good heading into the match and that the camp was positive.
What transpired on the field never reflected that though and the performance was, perhaps, symptomatic of the problems Dublin have been having over the last few years, particularly in the context of their next fixture when they went out and hammered Tipperary in Parnell Park. Consistency is the key this year and Daly has already identified the key component necessary to achieve it -- work-rate.
By the admission of everyone within the camp, the training has been tougher this year. The players look stronger and in the one small snapshot of their play this year in the Walsh Cup against Galway, the appetite seems to be raging.
That night in Parnell Park ticked all the Daly boxes. Johnny McCaffrey was sent off and Dublin played like men possessed for 35 minutes with 14 men.
They won ball in the forward line -- a feat so painfully lacking last year.
And, perhaps most notably, they earned three scores directly from turning over Galway defenders. Chasing, blocking, crowding, hunting in packs -- it was all there and presumably, we'll get a whole lot more of that tomorrow.
No doubt, the loss of Ryan O'Dwyer is a bad one but, on the bright side, the shoulder injury is not as bad first feared.
Alan McCrabbe won't hurl during the league but that will give others the chance to step into his influential shoes.
Crucially, McCaffrey has won his appeal against the red card and will not miss any league games and he is exactly the sort of warrior Dublin need if they are to get off to a positive start here.
All eyes will be on Conal Keaney to see how the re-acclimatisation process is going and the early signs are good, just as they are that Shane Ryan is finally showing some form.
Dublin have been tidy in defence recently but are still prone to conceding scores down the middle and Joey Boland needs to be more conscious of his direct marker. Against that, the more ball that sticks in the forward line, the less it comes right back down the defence's throat and that is an area in which Dublin need to improve.
For their part, Waterford are without Eoin Kelly, John Mullane, Eoin McGrath, Aidan Kearney, Brian O'Halloran, Shane Walsh, Tony Browne, Liam Lawlor, Declan Prendergast, Eoin Murphy and Kevin Moran but have been rattling along nicely regardless and won the Waterford Crystal Cup.
It should be close but if Dublin start well, they could just knick it.
ODDS: Waterford 2/5, Draw 10/1, Dublin 21/10