herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Dubs can edge out O'Moore

Allianz HL Div 1B Laois v Dublin (Portlaoise, Tom, 2.30)

Back: Donal Burke returns to Dublin’s starting team to face Laois
Back: Donal Burke returns to Dublin’s starting team to face Laois

In late November, the GAA's Central Competition's Control Committee brought a motion to Central Council to axe the hurling league quarter-finals.

Instead, they proposed, the competition would go straight from the divisional stages - which end tomorrow at the same time all around the country - to the Division 1 semi-finals, a round which would be populated by the three highest-finishing teams in Division 1A and the top side in 1B.

Their motives weren't difficult to decode.

The quarter-finals have hosted some embarrassingly lopsided games in the recent past and the wisdom of awarding a team that finishes fourth in Division 1B - as Offaly did last year with just two points before being hosed by Tipperary in the quarters - a spot in the competition's last-eight was hard to identify.

In a season already squashed by a championship where all teams would play more matches in a condensed period of time, the extra week would provide some much-needed breathing room.

The motion was defeated.

Why, no-one quite knows. But it would appear now as though Dublin will be the chief beneficiaries.

Victory in Portlaoise tomorrow and they will take that fourth-placed spot and get what is essentially a free crack at the team who finished top of Division 1A.

Lose, of course, and it's an arduous relegation clash with Antrim next week but all evidence suggests they should prosper by just enough in O'Moore Park. Pat Gilroy got a much-improved performance in Parnell Park against Galway, a sort of stylistic template from which his players will need to work from now on.

He also has the returning DCU players, four of whom missed the Galway match after the college's Fitzgibbon Cup defeat to UL the day before.

Despite the results, Chris Crummey is having another fine spring and Danny Sutcliffe appears tantalisingly close to his best form.

The trick now for Dublin is to make more ball stick up front.

Not that Laois don't have their charms. For 25 minutes of the qualifier between these teams in Parnell Park last June, Paddy Purcell destroyed Dublin from midfield.

Ross King, with 0-43 scored in four games, is a free-taker of some ability and as Gilroy admitted himself earlier this year, his team have yet to strike a balance between aggression and discipline.

They have conceded 2-37 from frees and penalties in their four games of this year's league, an average of just under 11 points per match.

And King has the range and accuracy to punish accordingly.

But without the injured Cahir Healy, Stephen 'Picky' Maher and Dwayne Palmer, Laois' quality and experience is significantly diluted.

Speaking to the Herald last week before the original fixture was postponed, Eamonn Kelly admitted that his team "had some soul-searching," to do after an anaemic performance against Offaly in their last game.

In short, for all their struggles so far this spring, Dublin have been delivered a gift horse.

They would be ill advised to gaze too long.

DUBLIN (NHL v Laois): A Nolan; P Smyth, B O'Carroll, E O'Donnell; S Barrett, C Crummey, J McCaffrey; C Costello, F Mac Gib; D Burke, C Keaney, D Sutcliffe; R Hayes, R O'Dwyer, P Winters.

ODDS: Laois 3/1, Draw 11/1, Dublin 2/7

VERDICT: Dublin

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