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Dublin to start cold in league warm-up

Kenny taking a different approach to early rounds

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HUGE PROGRESS: Laois manager Eddie Brennan (r) with selector Niall Corcoran during last month’s Walsh Cup match against Dublin at Parnell Park, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

HUGE PROGRESS: Laois manager Eddie Brennan (r) with selector Niall Corcoran during last month’s Walsh Cup match against Dublin at Parnell Park, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

HUGE PROGRESS: Laois manager Eddie Brennan (r) with selector Niall Corcoran during last month’s Walsh Cup match against Dublin at Parnell Park, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Niall Corcoran looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

All around him, Laois players were being submerged in mobs of ecstatic supporters.

Meanwhile, Dublin's players slunk despondently through the delirium towards their dressing-room in O'Moore Park.

A couple caught Corcoran's eye as he stood at the entrance to the tunnel, fielding questions about his role Laois's All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final victory over Dublin.

"I know the Dublin lads for a long time, played with some of them", Corcoran, Eddie Brennan's number two, noted respectfully.

"They're a hugely ambitious, a hugely talented group of players and that game was never over until Alan Kelly blew the full-time whistle".

A Games Promotion Officer in Dublin for over a decade, Corcoran admitted: "It's definitely mixed emotions for me.

Heartbreak

"Heartbreak for the Dublin lads because I know a lot of them and they're brilliant guys".

Corcoran had been in that exact spot with some of them before.

A starter in the 2013 Leinster semi-final replay in Portlaoise, Dublin's first Championship victory over Kilkenny in 71 years, after which he was hoisted and carried from the pitch by the same Dublin supporters who here, were peering in from behind the wire in O'Moore Park, wearing hangdog expressions that said everything about how their team's season had just ended.

And then, in a small room under the main stand away from the celebrations, Mattie Kenny spoke.

Two weeks previously, he had orchestrated a victory over his native Galway in Parnell Park that felt like it could be monumental for Dublin.

It was a rarity for the Dublin hurlers in the post Anthony Daly-era: a big Championship win against a major, All-Ireland contending team in a straight up do-or-die situation.

The emotion he felt in losing two weeks later to a team who had come through the Joe McDonagh Cup, who had had just seven days to prepare, brought a rawness out in Kenny as he tried to surmise it.

"There's an element of responsibility between the players and the management today," he stressed.

"That was an unacceptable performance from our group. And we know that. The problem is, it's too f***ing late now."

Despite his relatively late appointment, Dublin had topped Division 1B in his first League campaign as manager.

They beat Tipperary in Thurles, a first victory on Tipp soil since 1946, in the competition's semi-final.

Come summer, they salvaged their provincial campaign with a late unlikely goal from a free against Wexford in Parnell Park and then, as if to tee them up for a dark horse assault on the All-Ireland series, caused the sensation of the summer by knocking Galway out.

Yet Kenny knew as he spoke that the year would now be recalled only for how it had just ended.

Dublin, he admitted: "weren't at the required level today. And we've nobody to blame for that only ourselves."

Last Sunday in Nowlan Park, after Dublin's 12-point defeat to Kilkenny, Kenny loosely referenced the factors that went into last year's loss to Laois.

"I suppose last year we worked hard early on in the league and, as the championship went on, we seemed to lose our form a little bit," he said, in response to a question about the flatness of Dublin's performance in their League opener.

Admitting that his charges "looked sluggish" and "heavy-legged", Kenny rightly suggested that Kilkenny - who played the majority of the match with 14 men - had won "70-80 per cent of all breaking ball".

There was no doubting that of all the Liam MacCarthy counties, Dublin fell flattest on the League's opening weekend.

Atrocious

John Mullane said Dublin had been "atrocious", while Jackie Tyrrell noted their complete "lack of fire and fight".

Kenny might not argue with any of those assessments of the performances although he might have issue over the perceived significance.

In referencing last year, Kenny gave some indication as to how Dublin were approaching 2020 and by consequence, why they had been so uncompetitive against Kilkenny.

There is method to everything Kenny does.

With several of his front line players away until a couple of weeks ago and others having only just returned from injury, the League could be a slow-burner, although the visit of Laois - of all teams - to Parnell Park tomorrow should sharpen their competitive mind.

The optics of another defeat to Laois wouldn't be good. But in changing his approach to the early part of the season, Kenny is taking preventative measures against repeating the mistakes of last year.

  • Allianz HL Div 1B, Dublin v Laois, Parnell Park (Tomorrow, 2.0)