Wednesday 16 October 2019

It's Win or bust with Blues on the brink

Dublin forwards must find a way after their second half fadeout in Kilkenny

Dublin’s Darragh O’Connell walks off the pitch at Nowlan Park after losing the Leinster SHC Round 1 match against Kilkenny last week.
Dublin’s Darragh O’Connell walks off the pitch at Nowlan Park after losing the Leinster SHC Round 1 match against Kilkenny last week.

D-Day in Donnycarney. Wexford badly want a win. Dublin cannot go on without one. That is tomorrow's Leinster SHC clash in a nutshell.

Of course it's theoretically possible that Mattie Kenny's men could falter again and still ultimately emerge as top-three qualifiers from this hectic month-and-a-bit of round-robin shootouts.

But just how plausible?

It's worth harking back 12 months to this same juncture in near-identical circumstances. Dublin had led Kilkenny at half-time only to lose painfully. They went to Wexford craving a result and, albeit not hurling as fluently, they contrived to edge in front after 69 minutes.

Yet, for the second game running, they lost in stoppage-time. And by the time they faced Offaly, results elsewhere dictated that they were already out of the Liam MacCarthy race. All they could do was claim the win required to preserve their top-tier status.


Now, as then, Dublin have jettisoned a winning position against Kilkenny. Only this latest one was more emphatic and perhaps even more worrying, given the unravelling of their offensive game-plan and loss of potency through that second half in Nowlan Park.

And now, as then, they face Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford, coming late to the provincial party. "We're looking forward to the Dublin game. That's going to dictate our championship," says Rory O'Connor.

The young star's two late long-range missiles (bringing his haul to 0-12, 11 from frees) sealed heart-stopping victory over the Dubs 12 months ago.

The question now, once more, is will Wexford freshness trump a battle-hardened (or weary) Dublin? "There's two ways of looking at it," says O'Connor. "Do you want to be in the long grass looking at Dublin play Kilkenny ... and we've another week to get a little bit more work done?

"Another thing is Dublin are after playing a game up to championship level. Will they start well and we'll be kind of stunned by their intensity for the first 10 minutes? It's certainly the game that's going to dictate our summer anyway."

In theory, Wexford can afford a slip-up in the knowledge that they've three more outings. In reality - with Galway up next, also away - they will know defeat would put them ominously on the back foot.

Wexford's league form was a roller coaster mix of good and not so good. The concession of 13 converted Joe Canning frees, in their ten-point quarter-final defeat to Galway, is surely a warning: foul at your peril. Mind you, Dublin must also up their discipline: 1-11 of TJ Reid's match-winning 2-12 haul stemmed from fouls.

Dublin's defence still has the height, heft and hurling to turn Parnell into a cauldron for O'Connor, Lee Chin and Conor McDonald.


It's up front where Kenny most urgently requires improvement. For all of their initial alacrity and aggression against Kilkenny, led by Danny Sutcliffe and Liam Rushe, not enough Dublin attackers (or midfielders) were consistently firing through that first half in Nowlan Park. On the resumption, barely any of them mustered anything of note.

That must change for Dublin to stay in the race. Needs must: buoyed by the noise and familiar confines of Parnell, we think they'll survive. Just.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Dublin Evens, Draw 9/1, Wexford evens VERDICT: Dublin



(Parnell Park, Tomorrow 3.0)

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