Friday 15 December 2017

Dubs have momentum for big test of faith

Leinster MFC Semi-final

DUBLIN will resume their quest for provincial honours when they face Offaly in their Leinster Minor Football Championship semi-final at O'Connor Park, Tullamore on Thursday evening (7.30).

The Dubs enjoyed successive wins over Longford and Meath prior to the Leaving Certificate-enforced break and they will hope to regather some of that momentum when they face an Offaly side buoyed by their impressive quarter-final success over Westmeath back in May.

"We are ticking along nicely," said Dublin manager Cyril Kevlihan. "The exam situation is of course a priority for all the lads and rightly so, but since they have returned to the fold we have managed to regain some of the momentum from earlier in the year.

"When we resumed our collective training, our immediate priority from a management perspective was to get the group refocused on the task in hand and their attitude has been great since then.

"Of course, we will have a better idea of where we are on Thursday night but we have been very happy with what we have seen from the lads so far," he said.

In Dublin's way lie an Offaly team that have shown glimpses of returning to their traditional place at the top table within the province and who enter the contest with a healthy dose of confidence.

The mood within the camp is particularly upbeat and that aforementioned 2-16 to 1-8 win over Westmeath in the quarter-final reflects the talent inherent in their panel.

Kevlihan is full of admiration for the work being done in attempting to restore the county to previous glories and he anticipates a hugely difficult test for his charges in two days time.

"This particular Offaly age group have put in some excellent performances down the years in provincial blitzes and they have maintained that form this year.

"They were very impressive in beating Westmeath earlier in the year and their style of attacking football is very pleasing on the eye.

"I have a lot of respect for this particular side and for their management as well and of course, we are under no illusions as to the task in hand on Thursday evening.

"I would imagine it will be a good, honest battle between two talented teams and I genuinely don't think there will be too much between the teams at the final whistle," said the Thomas Davis clubman.

A clean bill of health will help Kevlihan as he looks to tweak his team from their narrow 0-15 to 0-12 win over Meath in the quarter-final.

Thankfully, Rian McBride, Eoghan McHugh and Con O'Callaghan all came through Sunday's Leinster Minor Hurling Championship final unscathed but the emotional fatigue that could possibly emanate from that day could affect their contribution in O'Connor Park.

"The lads are recovering well but the harsh reality of dual players at present in that this kind of situation arises at times" said Kevlihan.

"All three players are good lads and I don't anticipate any problems and bar the usual niggle for a few of the panel, we are in pretty good condition regarding the availability of players."

Five years ago, Kevlihan took his Dublin minor team down to the same venue and after an enthralling encounter, Paul Hudson and Darragh Stapleton took control to send the Dubs through after extra-time.

A similarly tight affair is anticipated in Tullamore on Thursday with Kevlihan more than happy to accept the same scenario in 48 hours time.

"Offaly are a fine side and they also enjoy home advantage on the night so we know that we will have a battle on our hands.

"We are really looking forward to the game however and although acknowledging the threat of Offaly, it is important that we focus on getting our own house in order.

"The lads have been moving nicely in training and in-house matches and we can take a few positives into the game.

"It's going to be a tight match and we would gladly take a one-point win and move the season on from there," he concluded.

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