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Quinn keen on home comforts in the league

GRAINNE QUINN admires the King. She understands that the Shef wasn't born with a silver hurl.

"Henry Shefflin didn't feature much at underage level in Kilkenny. But he just kept at it. And look at the player he became. There is a lesson there for us all," reflected the accomplished Dublin defender.

Grainne appreciates the story of a snow-bound Shef. It was a couple of years ago. He was in the middle of yet another injury rehab programme. Kilkenny was covered in deep snow. He couldn't go out for a gentle jog, or even a walk.

The cabin fever was closing in. But Henry went to the shed and started lifting bags of coal. That's the inches that make the champion.

Dublin have been hard at it since well before Christmas. This is Grainne's fourth year on board.

Last season was her most memorable of all. She earned two Player of the Year awards. One for the county and the other in the Senior 2 Club category.

She's the pride of Palmerstown's Glenaulin Park. A super Saint of Patrick's. She plays on the Patrick's/Tower (C) combination.

"We merged a couple of years ago because of decreasing numbers and it has worked out really well," she relates.

Things are also good with the Blues. "We always put in the work, but we can have a laugh as well. The players are more friends than team-mates at this stage.

"A lot more goes into the game now fitness wise. Strength and conditioning are so important. We have a terrific group. The management have plenty of knowledge. They can offer the few words that can lift you and improve your game."

Last summer, Dublin came close to reaching the All-Ireland semi-final. That would have been some feat, considering where the side was coming from.

Offaly pipped them at Parnell Park. "They had more experience than us. They were used to playing in big games like that.

"For us, it was out biggest match, but we can only learn from days like that. That defeat can stand to us."

Dublin's league journey begins on February 24 away to Clare. "That will be tough. They are a decent side. We then have Wexford and Galway at home. They will also be difficult games, but at least we have home advantage. That is a plus."

Then the thoughts will turn to the brighter days and the scent of the championship. Dublin will travel to Cork before hosting Offaly and Tipperary.

For starters, Cork is more than a mouthful. "They reached the All-Ireland final last year. They will be sore after losing that.

"It will be an interesting challenge. They have a fine, young side. They have plenty of players who have come through the ranks."

But so have the Dubs. "Yes, we have a fine panel now. There are more and more young players coming through, so the aim is to hit the ground running next month."

And just like Henry, the Dublin girls are not afraid to get their hands dirty.