herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Dubs are justifiable favourites - but they must not sleepwalk into a trap

Mattie's men must be ruthless or it won't Bode' well in Carlow

If Dublin’s Seán Moran drops deep it may allow Carlow to pile foward says pundit Michael Duignan
If Dublin’s Seán Moran drops deep it may allow Carlow to pile foward says pundit Michael Duignan

Maybe it was no harm for any early risers on the Dublin team if they stumbled upon Morning Ireland soon after half-seven yesterday.

For there was RTÉ hurling analyst Michael Duignan pronouncing judgement on Sunday's Leinster SHC round-robin clash in Netwatch Cullen Park.

"A lot will depend on how Dublin set-up. If they go and play defensively and with Seán Moran dropping back, that's going to allow Carlow to attack them," Duignan ventured.

"I think Dublin would want to be very, very careful here and I won't be surprised if the shock of the championship happens on Sunday, I think Carlow have a really good chance."

We'll let you decide if that equates to a definitive "Verdict Carlow" or "I told you so" if it happens. But it was a timely warning of the perils of sleepwalking into a Carlow ambush. You snooze, you lose - potentially even your top-tier status.

Yes, Dublin are favourites for perfectly valid reasons - pedigree, experience, recent form graphs in the league and early round-robin stages. Mattie Kenny can call on greater reserves of individual talent, too, even if Colm Bonnar possesses two genuine match-winners in Marty Kavanagh and Chris Nolan.

Targeted

But on enemy turf and in a one-off game, there are no guarantees. Especially when Carlow, as Duignan reminds, are bound to have "targeted" this as their most likely source of success.

It's probably no harm that Kenny's dressing-room includes a couple of Ballyboden veterans.

Back in November 2013, Boden were hot favourites to reach the Leinster club SHC final. A pumped-up Mount Leinster Rangers had other ideas and got ever stronger as a rip-roaring battle developed. Despite an injury-time scare - Boden scored a penalty and had another goal chance to steal it - Rangers held on to win by 1-17 to 3-9.

What possible bearing has a club match in darkest winter, from five-and-a-half years ago, on tomorrow's showdown? Arguably very little - but the likes of Michael Doyle, Richard Coady and Edward Byrne, who played for Mount Leinster that day, won't have forgotten it.

Nor, we suspect, will evergreen Dublin forwards Conal Keaney and Paul Ryan, who lined out for Boden.

Their then-selector, Darragh Spain, told The Herald afterwards: "Their desire seemed to be far superior to ours."

Desire should be a prerequisite and no one can question that commodity in Dublin's two games to date - the defeat to Kilkenny and roller-coaster draw with Wexford.

But there cannot be any drop in intensity, even a subconscious easing off the pedal, just because Carlow are the minnows in this group.

Punching

For under Bonnar, Carlow keep on punching above their weight. This was encapsulated by their performance at a wind-lashed Tullamore in March: a man down after ten minutes, and 11 points adrift at the break, they wore Offaly down to win that Division 1B relegation play-off and preserve their top-flight status.

Even though Dublin harbour justifiable ambitions to qualify among the top-three, the danger is that this could turn into a de facto relegation play-off too - especially as the weather forecast isn't kind.

Dublin must take a leaf from Kilkenny's playbook two weeks ago: a goal after 17 seconds and another after eight minutes drained Carlow confidence after their battling opener in Salthill and they trailed by 15 points at the break. The second half was much better; but it was always a case of damage limitation.

It's debatable whether Dublin possess the same killer instinct as Kilkenny, even though they plundered three goals in a 3-15 to 0-18 win over Carlow back in January.

Overall, they've hit 11 goals in nine NHL and SHC games. Their strength, in most matches under Kenny, has been a defence that almost picks itself.

Up front, they've been undermined by injuries and some individual inconsistencies, reflected at Nowlan Park when they shot 1-13 in the first half but just 0-8 thereafter.

They followed up that 1-21 haul with 1-22 against Wexford. Repeat that here and it probably would be enough ... anything less than victory and Dublin's summer will surely be short, their winter of discontent a whole lot longer.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Carlow 6/1 Draw 14/1 Dublin 1/8

VERDICT: Dublin

LEINSTER SHC RD ROBIN

CARLOW v DUBLIN

Netwatch Cullen Pk, Tom (3.0)

Promoted articles

Entertainment News