Thursday 23 November 2017

Dubs hear early alarm

Blues boss Daly tells his side to heed lessons of Walsh Cup reversal

ANTHONY DALY didn't spend long celebrating the Walsh Cup success of last year so it wasn't wholly surprising that he didn't mourn Dublin's loss to Laois too deeply yesterday.

He did point out, however, after their 2-14 to 1-14 defeat by the home side in Portlaoise that it won't be all Croke Park and All Stars for hurling's newest top brass.

"Our fellas have to learn it can't be all about playing in league finals and All-Ireland semi-finals," he said. "You have to win the dirty battles as well. That's a learn-ing curve for younger lads."


The glam ties to which Daly referred couldn't have been further removed from Portlaoise yesterday.

At a push, there might have been 400 people in O'Moore Park but you couldn't be sure of it. And efforts to manually calculate the 'crowd' at half-time were thrown off kilter by the emergence of some extended panel members to the stands!

Neither team team were afforded so much as verbal acknowledgment of their arrival onto the pitch.

Suitably, the weather was chronic, the air was bitterly cold and wet and as a result, the pitch cut up chunks. A player falling on the sliotar ran at least a slight risk of drowning.

As for the hurling, Laois were better for longer and so won the game. They were sharper, less heavy-legged, hit their goals at ideal times and responded positively to a second half barrage of Dublin scores and so deserve their semi-final meeting with Galway next weekend.

"We all know it's a cliché, 'goals win games', but for us, they did today," surmised Laois boss, Teddy McCarthy.

"They gave us a bit of a cushion because we knew Dublin were going to come back at us strong in the second half, which they did.

"They had us under pressure but as it turned out we won by a goal so the goals were crucial."

On a day when good hurling was next nor near impossible, Willie Hyland was outstanding at wing-forward for Laois, although paradoxically, Danny Sutcliffe was Dublin's best player despite the fact that the two marked each other for the lion's portion of the game.


"Willie is a natural, we all know that," praised McCarthy. "So far he is doing it for us."

Daly was inclined to agree but eulogised in depth about the display of St Jude's man Sutcliffe who, after moving to midfield in the second half, generated plenty of much-needed energy for the depleted Dubs. At that stage, Dublin were well adrift, due mostly to Hyland's sweet and clinical ball-striking while Tommy Fitzgerald showed an ace poacher's instinct to pounce on momentary lapses from the Dublin defence to bag goals either side of half-time.

Dublin (or 'Casualty' as they're soon to be rebranded) took the pitch with 15 fit players and just four able-bodied subs.

Even Paul Ryan was summoned to make a contribution despite being sick during the week.

Encouragingly, though, Alan McCrabbe made an appearance at half-time and bagged a goal while wing-forward Cian McBride showed plenty of appetite for the battle and helped himself to two points from play, the second of which was the score of the match after a burst of pace down the wing and majestic strike straight off the stick.


Really though, Dublin looked like a team for whom the game came as a surprise and by the time they had gotten their heads around it, were already six points down.

Shane Stapleton punished most of Laois' infringements while Ryan O'Dwyer lent his own particular brand of hussle to midfield, centre-forward and full-forward over the course of 70 bruising minutes but their wasn't enough urgency from Dublin when Laois were asserting their dominance.

The O'Moore men led by 1-8 to 0-6 at the break and twisted the knife with a quick 1-1 after the break, extending their lead to eight points after Fitzgerald finished a pass from Mick McEvoy, a shot which stuck in the mud just behind Alan Nolan's goal line but well short of the net.

Dublin's response was encouraging and they blasted over the next six points but the O'Moore County replied impressively with four of their own and never looked threatened.

"We have four weeks (before the start of the league) but maybe we need it," Daly mused.

"We've been doing a lot of heavy work. Last year was straight into it. Now, we have time to get organised. We'll probably play one or two challenge matches, maybe have a look at the panel as well.

"When we showed the urgency, we showed we could win it. But we didn't show the urgency early on. Laois wanted it more than we did," he concluded. "So that's the bottom line," concluded the Dublin boss.

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