Dubs must defend from front in Tipp
Competitive performance required in 'home of hurling' says ex-Dub O'Dwyer
Ryan O'Dwyer is uniquely placed to comment. "It's a horrible feeling," says the recently-retired Dublin hurler. "One bit of you wants the earth to open up and swallow you. You're thinking 'Jesus…I'm making a show of myself here'.
The sensation to which O'Dwyer refers is that of being a Tipperary man playing for Dublin against Tipp when his adopted county are taking a shellacking from the team representing his place of birth in front of his native people in Thurles.
He speaks from a position of gruelling experience.
There was the 22-point Championship defeat in 2017 that brought a crushing end to Ger Cunningham's three-year reign.
Or the 13-point loss in 2014 that transpired to be the final game of Anthony Daly's tenure.
Dublin arrived that day at the self-styled 'home of hurling' rudderless after a poor Leinster final performance against Kilkenny and left manager-less.
"But every time I played against Tipperary, even if I lost a hurley I'd be doing everything I could to get a block in," O'Dwyer recalls.
"I'd give everything I can. I felt I had to. But it's a horrible feeling."
Whether the ground itself has traditionally held any inhibition for Dublin is open to interpretation.
While most of the first world hurling counties sing in unison about the lure of playing in Tom Semple's field, you get the impression Dublin haven't been particularly enamoured with its charms in the past.
"It's a Munster thing," O'Dwyer reckons. "You ask players from Limerick or Cork or Clare where their favourite venue is and more than likely they'll say Thurles.
"I don't know whether any Kilkenny or Wexford players would say it."
Perhaps it's just a Tipperary thing.
Dublin's most recent victories in Thurles have been against against Limerick: in the 2015 All-Ireland SHC Championship qualifiers and a Division 1B promotion play-off two years earlier.
For all the ground made up by Dublin on hurling's aristocracy in the past decade, they haven't beaten Tipperary in the Championship since 1917.
And whatever the value of home comforts of Semple Stadium, Tipperary have also dished out a couple of pitiless defeats to Dublin in Croke Park of late.
Most recently, there was the 11-point trimming at the same quarter-final stage of the League last year that the counties meet again on this Saturday.
Before that, there was an opening-night League loss at GAA HQ in 2017 by 16-points.
"Whether playing Tipp in Croke Park or playing them in Thurles …Tipp have the forwards that can produce a massive amount of scores," O'Dwyer points out.
"Most other teams in the country are relying on one or two score-getters and then the rest of them working around that and chipping in with a point or two.
"But every one of those Tipperary forwards can score five or six points from play."
All of which Mattie Kenny will be understandably eager to consign to history this week but given their sharpness and accuracy when scoring 1-29 against Cork in Páirc Ui Rinn last Sunday, Tipp in Thurles seems like a bit of a dud prize for the Dubs after topping Division 1B.
O'Dwyer saw Dublin beat Waterford in Parnell Park a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with the calmness with which they won the game having absorbed the repeated blows of conceding four goals, uncharacteristic for a team built around such a stoic and dependable defence.
"I thought we had a good backline there against Tipp in 2017 as well," he points out, "and then Seamie Callanan went to town against us.
"But that's because the amount of ball and the supply of ball was phenomenal," O'Dywer adds.
"So the backs are good. But they need to be supported by the forwards. You have to start your defence at number 15.
"Tipp are full of confidence," he notes. "They have (Liam) Sheedy back. There's always a good vibe around with Sheedy. Everyone wants to impress him. Everyone wants to be part of it.
"Personally," he adds, "I'd be looking for two or three big performances from individuals. And to make sure that the team puts up a good score and fights until the end.
"If they do that and they lose, you can take it.
"Because if you win on Saturday, it's not going to make your season," O'Dwyer concludes.
"So by the same token, if you lose, it shouldn't be the end of the world either."