DUBLIN'S minor hurlers continued their championship preparations with an encouraging display when falling to an impressive Limerick outfit by 1-21 to 2-16 at the University of Limerick grounds last Saturday afternoon.
Manager Pat Fanning, who was able to call on the majority of his panel for the first time in challenge games this year, was impressed with the application and industry shown by his charges before a raft of substitutions saw their lead whittled away by the final whistle.
"Overall, I was very happy with what I saw in the first 45 minutes and there is definitely an upward curve in the way our performances are improving over the weeks," said the Na Fianna clubman.
"We had a proper look at what we would consider to be a strong selection, injuries aside, and given that Limerick are a talented team, we certainly showed well until we changed things around towards the end."
The absence through injury and illness of Eoghan Ó Conghaile, Cian Boland, Chris Bennett and Con O'Callaghan deprived Dublin of four of their more accomplished forwards but it gave others the chance to impress with Seán Ryan and Eoghan McHugh both featuring prominently.
The Na Fianna clubmates, who are also involved with the minor football panel, wreaked havoc from various spells at full-forward with the former also showing well from the outset when positioned at wing-forward.
Both benefitted from the performance at centrefield from Andrew Jamieson-Murphy that Fanning described as "immense" with Ryan McBride from St Vincent's combining well with Jamieson-Murphy, especially in the opening-half.
Dublin's wing-backs also showed favourably with Eoghan O'Donnell's experience from last year's run to the All-Ireland MHC final proving valuable while Darragh Kelly, who plays his club hurling for Ratoath, also showed promise.
Behind them, John Bellew from Lucan Sarsfields maintained his excellent recent form with another strong outing while last year's goalkeeper Cian Mac Gabhann is hopeful that his form will help cement a starting berth in the full-back line.
In attack, Colm O'Neill and Dara Ó Gallachóir were the main beneficiaries of McHugh's and Ryan's influence and with the aforementioned missing quartet to hopefully return in the not-too-distant future, Fanning is optimistic of his options in both defence and attack.
"Things are beginning to come together and with our first game in the Leinster championship not starting until May 5, we have a bit of time on our side," said Fanning. "We play a series of tough games against Limerick, Waterford and Clare in the next three weekends and we should have a far greater idea of where we are after those.
"Our fitness and physicality is already there and the hurling is really coming on of late. We've had some very good training sessions recently and the confidence within the panel is definitely beginning to rise," concluded Fanning optimistically.
Dublin will play Limerick next Saturday afternoon at the Liffey Gaels grounds with a provisional throw-in time of 1.30 (yet to be confirmed).
DUBLIN (MH v Limerick) - Tadhg Murphy (Kilmacud Crokes); John Bellew (Lucan Sarsfields), Mark Kavanagh (St Brigid's), Cian Mac Gabhann (Kilmacud Crokes); Darragh Kelly (Ratoath), Shane Barrett (Na Fianna), Eoghan O'Donnell (Whitehall Colmcille); AJ Murphy (Na Fianna), Ryan McBride (St Vincent's); Seán Ryan (Na Fianna), Seán Treacy (Cuala), Seán Gray (Whitehall Colmcille); Colm O'Neill (Ballyboden St Enda's), Eoghan McHugh (Na Fianna), Dara Ó Gallachóir (Kilmacud Crokes).