Kelleher backs Treaty to make up for final heartache
THERE are three prizes on offer tonight at Semple Stadium, where Dublin play Limerick in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B final.
They are, in order of priority for the two teams: (1) promotion to join the big boys in Division 1A in 2014; (2) the right to meet high-flying Tipperary in the NHL semi-finals, thereby prolonging the campaign by at least one more match; and (3) the booby prize – languishing in 1B for one more year.
So what's another year in the second tier?
Ask Limerick manager John Allen and his players and they'll tell you it's one year too many away from mixing with the elite counties.
Indeed, what a sickener for the men in green in the 1B decider of 2012 when Limerick topped the division but lost the final to a Davy Fitzgerald-managed Clare side at the Gaelic Grounds.
Adding to the pain was Limerick's early dominance. They led by six points at one stage, and by three at half-time, but lost by two on a 0-21 to 1-16 scoreline.
Dublin slumped last year from the glory of 2011 when they won the league title, beating Kilkenny, and have had to forage in 1B for this campaign.
Anthony Daly's side have ticked the box on two of their early-season goals: to win the Walsh Cup and reach the 1B final. But can they gain revenge for their Croke Park defeat to Limerick last month?
It's a big ask, according to former Dublin hurling manager Humphrey Kelleher, who believes that the 2012 pain will be the spur for a Limerick success.
Kelleher, who this week launched his book, 'GAA Family Silver' – the stories behind the people and personalities who are commemorated in 101 trophies – feels that Allen's side will have the edge on the Dubs.
"From a Dublin point of view, you want to be positive but you have to be realistic as well," he said.
"I think Limerick will be favourites for a number of reasons. First, Limerick have a greater incentive to get out of 1B because they have been there for two years, and second, Anthony Daly has been doing a lot of chopping and changing in the league.
"I just feel that Limerick have a more settled team than Dublin and they have more potent finishers than Dublin.
"There's also the Semple Stadium factor, in that Limerick are more used to playing there."
Kelleher, a former Waterford inter-county player, gave a nod of approval to the placing of Conal Keaney at centre-back for Dublin against Carlow last weekend.
In their four previous matches, Liam Rushe had been wearing the No 6 jersey, but he moved to midfield against Carlow.
"I've said before that Dublin should play Keaney at centre half-back. He's strong, he has a great ability to catch, and he has the concentration and composure to deliver good, varied ball to the forwards," said Kelleher.
On a broader front, Kelleher is adamant that hurling counties need the best quality matches they can get in order to develop the game and urges a top division of 10 to 12 teams.
"We have to be imaginative and be prepared to change if hurling is to thrive around the country," he said.