Dubs look good for leap of faith'
DUBLIN'S U21 hurlers will hope to follow the example of their senior counterparts with a provincial final berth their goal when they face Offaly in their Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21 championship semi-final at Parnell Park this evening (7.30).
The Dubs put in a fitful display when defeating Carlow (4-11 to 0-11) at Dr Cullen Park a fortnight ago, characterised by some poor delivery and shot selection in the opening half, but that was perhaps understandable given it was their first competitive outing of the season.
Such profligacy is unlikely to suffice this evening against an Offaly team which contains five members of the senior panel that ran Dublin so close in Croke Park last month.
The recent turmoil surrounding the status of hurling within the county may also help galvanise the Faithful County who are at a disadvantage entering the competition at this stage, given Dublin's opportunity to blow off the cobwebs against Carlow.
The Dubs appeared to have strengthened their selection with the positioning of Craobh Chiaráin's Darren Kelly at full-back. Kelly tasted U21 provincial glory last year as did Martin Quilty, Daire Plunkett, Liam Rushe and Ciarán Brennan.
Brennan's sharpness when introduced in the second-half against Carlow has been rewarded with a spot at corner-forward while another substitute to impress that night, Mark Schutte, has been given a berth at wing-forward with his strength and aerial prowess pivotal to Dublin's improved showing after half-time.
How Plunkett and, especially, Rushe cope after the demands of last Saturday will have a crucial bearing on the outcome, although there is no reason to suggest that the captain won't put in a similarly influential display, albeit from a more attacking position. Plunkett's selection at centrefield will give the St Brigid's player a wonderful opportunity to showcase his talents ahead of the Leinster SHC final against Kilkenny, while fellow midfielder Danny Sutcliffe has shown great maturity since his elevation from the minor ranks.
With no form-line as such to assess the quality or otherwise of Offaly, one can only assume that they have improved on last year's 29-point drubbing at the hands of Kilkenny and with a Leinster final at stake, they won't want for appetite or endeavour. However, all the signs point to a straightforward Dublin victory, with hurling in the capital on an unprecedented high, home advantage an added bonus and their strength in depth reflected by the strong options available to them from the bench.
If Dublin's attitude and work-rate are up to scratch, then an improvement in their scores-to-chances ratio should see them progress to a provincial final.
DUBLIN: G McManus; B O'Carroll, D Kelly, J Doughan; D Curran, M Quilty, C Gough; D Sutcliffe, D Plunkett; M Schutte, L Rushe, R Mahon; K O'Loughlin, E Dillon, C Brennan.
OFFALY: S Corcoran; D Magner, S Coughlan, C McDonald; D Shortt, E Murphy, B Mulrooney; M Ryan, T Spain; S Cleary, G Conneely, S Kinsella; S Gardiner, A Hynes, T Carroll.
p Live commentary of tonight's game on Dublin City FM (103.2FM)