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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Malone 'itching to get back' and leave Sky Blue mark

Eager: Dublin’s Jake Malone at the National Sports Campus to
launch AIG’s “try before you buy” SmartLane driving app
Eager: Dublin’s Jake Malone at the National Sports Campus to launch AIG’s “try before you buy” SmartLane driving app

Hurling in December, a fortnight out from Christmas Day. It sounds like the ultimate in drudgery - but Jake Malone can't wait.

Dublin kickstart their Bord na Móna Walsh Cup campaign against Carlow in Netwatch Cullen Park tonight (7.45). It's a competitive baptism for Mattie Kenny - and a potential opportunity for Malone to start his first ever 'spring' fixture for the Dubs, albeit in darkest winter.

"It's weird," he says. "People are saying that you need a break but, with Cuala being out so early this year, I was kind of itching to get back.

"If you were given the option to train all the way up to Christmas or to have two games, I'd pick the games the whole time."

Malone's willingness for action is understandable on several fronts. Firstly, because of Cuala's All-Ireland campaigns, he has never had a chance to shine in early-season - his only league appearance came off the bench in a 2017 Division 1A relegation play-off in Ennis.

Secondly, even though he started all four Leinster round-round games last summer, Dublin have been inactive since June 9 - six long months.

And finally, well, there's a certain new boss to impress - albeit one he knows very well.

"I don't think Mattie will be reinventing the wheel at all," he predicts. "There was obviously progress last season ... we only won one game out of the four we played so in that regard it probably was disappointing but, in comparison to the three years previous to that, there was a lot of progress made, a lot of conditioning done and a lot of hurling into lads.

"So he'll definitely be building on what's there and towards next year, to be able to tweak it and make sure we're performing in the right games."

He adds: "There'll be no period of transition, definitely not. This is year two, 100 per cent. Everything done last year has been taken on board and we'll be building on that for the next couple of months."

Shock

Malone admits that Pat Gilroy's resignation after just one year, compelled by work demands, came as a "shock".

"I actually got the call off Pat and I thought he was ringing me in regards to when we were starting back," he recalls. "It's disheartening that he left but, as soon as he did leave, lads were looking towards the next year, what's going to happen, who is going to take charge. Most lads were thinking Mattie was the one, so obviously delighted to get him on board."

As for last summer's close-but-no-cigar defeats, he ventures: "I don't think luck had anything to do with it. It might have just been a game-management thing during the matches. We were in a winning position in all three games (against Kilkenny, Wexford and Galway) coming up to the 70th minute.

"It's disappointing losing those after putting in a good performance on the day, I don't think there's anything massive to be changed, we need to take what we did well in those performances and isolate what we did badly," he concludes.

ODDS: Carlow 11/4 Draw 10/1 Dublin 2/7

VERDICT: Dublin

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