Wednesday 20 March 2019

Keaney injury a huge blow for Sky Blues

Leinster SHC Rd 2 Wexford v Dublin (Wexford Pk, Tom 3.0)

HUGE LOSS: Dublin’s Conal Keaney leaves the field injured during the Leinster SHC opener at Parnell Park last Sunday Photo: Sportsfile
HUGE LOSS: Dublin’s Conal Keaney leaves the field injured during the Leinster SHC opener at Parnell Park last Sunday Photo: Sportsfile

Glass half-empty or glass half-full? It's a familiar conundrum for those Dublin hurling die-hard fans who have traversed the country in support of their team, through thick and, more usually, thin times.

The first version? Conal Keaney's absence for tomorrow's crunch trip to Innovate Wexford Park is liable to tip Dublin over the edge and into a potential do-or-die relegation showdown with Offaly.

The optimistic alter ego? In Wexford's last competitive outing, in their own backyard, Davy Fitzgerald's men lost by 1-27 to 2-15.

That was a proper pummelling, inflicted by Kilkenny - who were pushed to the brink of defeat by Dublin last Sunday.

If you're to accept those two form graphs, why shouldn't Dublin have every belief that victory can be theirs shortly after 4.30 tomorrow? This is the defiantly upbeat message that Pat Gilroy will be preaching in the away team's dressing room.

Wexford's Lee Chin. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford's Lee Chin. Photo: Sportsfile


Gilroy should be helped by having history on his side. Perhaps the only vague 'consolation' to Keaney's loss is that not a solitary Dublin starter has tasted championship defeat to Wexford.

During the Anthony Daly era and even beyond, Dublin invariably held the whip hand. They won narrowly in 2009, by eight points in 2013 (admittedly in a replay), by five in Wexford Park a year later, and by a chasm-like 13 points in 2016. But that was pre-Davy Fitzgerald.

The transformation wrought by the Clare man may not have yielded silverware (bar a Walsh Cup last January) but it has bordered on the spectacular nonetheless.

Their league semi-final collapse, referenced above, reads more like a blip for a team that has gained promotion from Division 1B and then easily survived in the top tier, all this sandwiching a Kilkenny-slaying run to last year's Leinster final.

The players have bought into the Davy Fitz game-plan. They are a far more consistent animal these days; their confidence is growing and they have several match-winners in Lee Chin, Conor McDonald and the newest red-hot kid on the block, Rory O'Connor.

Usually, too, you can be guaranteed a serious work ethic. Clearly, for whatever reason, there was a systems breakdown against Kilkenny at the start of April and any repeat will be pounced on by their voracious visitors, if last Sunday's evidence is anything to go by.

Yet, ultimately, the loss of a 35-year-old veteran could prove the difference.

Keaney was immense against Kilkenny, not just in taking his four points but in the physical presence and leadership he offered in attack. Fionntán Mac Gib - a very different, if livewire threat - now fills the void.

Minus Keaney, and with Donal Burke still not fit to resume, the onus only increases on Liam Rushe to reprise the human tsunami role that shook Kilkenny's full-back line.

Moreover, unlike last Sunday, Danny Sutcliffe must become the go-to man in the half-forwards.

The odds below strike us as far too lopsided. Can Dublin buck them? Perhaps, but only if last weekend's heroic effort is reprised while their squanderlust (ten wides, a handful more dropped short) is eradicated. A big, big ask.

DUBLIN: A Nolan; P Smyth, C O'C allaghan, B O'Carroll; S Barrett, S Moran, C Crummey; R McBride, E O'Donnell; J Malone, F Mac Gib, D Sutcliffe; F Whitely, L Rushe, P Ryan.

BOYLESPORTS BET: Wexford 1/3 Draw 10/1 Dublin 3/1

VERDICT: Wexford

Promoted articles

Entertainment News