THE Dublin hurlers will jet out to Portugal late tomorrow night for four days of pre-championship training, but it’s same to assume that - prior to check-in - Anthony Daly will have a pre-flight rendezvous in Portlaoise.
The opening leg of a Leinster hurling quarter-final double-header will be the Dublin manager’s first priority booking this weekend, with the winners qualifying for a tilt at the provincial champions in two weeks’ time.
What can Daly expect? Good question. The widespread presumption, so it seems, is that tomorrow is already a done deal for Liam Dunne and his players, who just need to turn up to seal the deal - hence their 1/9 odds.
But that does something of a disservice to Antrim and their occasional penchant for upsetting the odds when least expected.
It’s only a couple of months since their seniors copperfastened their Division 1B status by toppling Offaly in a relegation play-off. It’s only six days since they caused a mild tremor by beating Laois to finish top of Leinster’s round-robin group.
And did we mention last August? The time an Antrim U21 panel struggling for numbers at training ambushed an unbackable Wexford in an All-Ireland semi-final? You can guarantee that result is firmly embedded in the minds of every Wexford U21 now plying his trade with the seniors.
Those same seniors remain a work in progress, with incremental signs of improvement but no definitive proof (yet) that they’re about to become genuine Leinster contenders.
Last summer was full of conflicting signals. They pushed Dublin to the brink before losing their way - and discipline - in the replay while their qualifier campaign started with a ten-point win over tomorrow’s opponents, almost ended in humiliation at home to Carlow, and eventually culminated in valiant extra-time defeat to Clare.
They opened this year’s league with a flimsy 0-15 to 1-11 win in Antrim, albeit while playing with 14 men for all the second half and having led by seven until a late Saffron rally.
Subsequent league form was solid rather than headline-generating. They had a brace of six-point wins over Offaly and Laois, were competitive in defeat to Limerick and Cork, then rattled Kilkenny’s quarter-final cage for 35 minutes before the Cats bared their claws and pulled away.
Beating Tipp by 5-19 to 2-19 in a recent challenge was a more positive augury and, leaving aside the inevitable caveats about trusting such results as far as you’d throw them, they should win here with a little to spare.