Nolan warns Dublin of threat from 'modern-day Shefflin' Canning
Published 26/05/2015 | 02:30
It's unfamiliar territory for him but, technically at least, Alan Nolan is the man in possession.
When Dublin last played championship hurling, he was their first-choice goalkeeper. An injury to his long-term rival Gary Maguire before the Wexford game last summer finally opened the door and he held the spot for rest of their campaign.
In fact, he did more than just hold on to it as he produced a man-of-the-match performance in last year's Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny. And he went on to earn an All-Star nomination in a year when the Dublin team as a whole failed to fire.
A season like that had been a long time coming. That start against Wexford came a full seven years and one month after his debut against Offaly. And that came in a dead rubber round robin match of little significance.
In between, he was limited to league appearances and cameos as Maguire avoided injury and proved his class when winning an All-Star in 2011.
This time around, the pair have shared the role in the league. The suggestion is that Maguire will resume duties when the Dubs face Galway in Croke Park on Sunday on the basis that he played in the league semi-final defeat to Cork but Nolan isn't for giving up just yet.
"I suppose we're at it the last few years," Nolan reflected. "It was just the fact that Gary had never got injured and he'd always played.
"And I suppose now that I've played in the championship, people are raising questions who'll be in.
"But the two of us are always going hard at each other; Conor Dooley is there with us as well.
"So we're pushing each other hard and just training as much as we can."
The introduction of legendary Cork goalkeeper Ger Cunningham as manager has also added a new dimension to Dublin training, particularly for the netminders in the squad.
"Sometimes he can lend some of his experience, or you can just ask questions. "He can relate to it, because he was a goalie … it is great having a legend of a goalkeeper there, and you may as well use it.
"He's posing questions the whole time - and it's great because we're used to Anthony Daly.
"It wouldn't matter who came in - it's all new, it's great to hear new ideas, new questions, and it opens your mind which is a good thing.
"You are always trying to learn, and it's great that he is a goalie and that we can pick up little bits and pieces off him."
Dublin have enjoyed some big wins against Galway but their record in Croke Park is less impressive. Their league quarter-final win over Limerick was their first at HQ since the Leinster final of 2013 but Nolan doesn't put much stock in that.
"We don't look into it too much. We more look at it as a loss - never mind it being in Croke Park.
"But I suppose people were posing that question and it was great to get the run-out.
"We've played in Croke Park three times before May, which is a great help for the teams - Limerick, Cork and ourselves.
"Because if you're planning to get there at the end of the summer, it's great preparation.
"We just took the Limerick game as a league quarter-final; nothing to do with Croke Park. And we put in a massive display that day and got a great result."
They go into Sunday's game as favourites but Nolan is wary of the talents of Joe Canning and Co.
"That man (Canning) is, I suppose, our modern-day Henry Shefflin. He's that bit younger, and he's a massive hurler.
"Everyone admires him, the stuff he can do on the pitch, and I think as long as he plays he'll be a legend, and long after.
"There's no real safety net from the start of the summer now. It's straight into the thick of it. You wouldn't want it any other way."