DUBLIN hurlers may be propping up the Division 1A table and facing into a relegation play-off next month, but Ryan O'Dwyer is in ebullient mood.
The effervescent Tipp man who has sweated blood - real and metaphorical - for the Sky Blue cause over the past 15 months remains defiantly upbeat about 2012.
So much so that he's convinced his adopted county will not lose their relegation 'final', be it against Waterford or Galway on April 15.
And so much so that he isn't remotely shy about discussing Dublin's ultimate ambition this season. Where other players live in mortal fear of public discourse veering beyond the next game, O'Dwyer is happy to wax lyrical about Dublin's desire to land a first All-Ireland since ... whisper it ... 1938.
Better still, he doesn't want any relegation 'asterisks' attached to Dublin's quest for Liam MacCarthy.
Last spring, under Anthony Daly's inspired leadership, Dublin won their first Allianz League top-flight title in 72 years. Now, despite three big performances on consecutive weekends, they are facing the deflating prospect of being relegated as NHL holders.
"No one wants to do that," O'Dwyer declared, speaking at yesterday's Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps launch in Croke Park. "You don't want that stigma attached to you."
He goes on: "Our aim is an All-Ireland, but we don't want that thing attached to us that 'Oh, you got relegated but you won the All-Ireland'.
"We want to get clapped out into a Division 1A first round game next year after winning the All-Ireland."
No half-measures there, but then O'Dwyer isn't one to play it safe within earshot of a dictaphone.
Thus, when asked if he's worried that relegation could overshadow Dublin's championship build-up, he replies: "There is that element but, as far as we're concerned, we're going to stay up. I know that might be a bold statement there but, no matter who we're playing, we feel we're going to stay up."
More immediately, Dublin have a pivotal role to play in deciding their play-off opponents. If they beat or even draw with Waterford in Dungarvan this Sunday, the same two sides will reconvene with everything to play for two weeks later. A Waterford win, though, could parachute Galway into a relegation dogfight with the Dubs.
O'Dwyer won't declare any preference 'on the record', pointing out: "If we want to win the Leinster championship, we're going to have to beat Kilkenny and then it's looking like Galway in a final, so we're going to have to beat them at some stage this year... they beat us earlier in the year so it would be nice to pull one over them - because as far as I'm concerned, we weren't firing on all cylinders that day.
"If we play Waterford, well then we need to beat them as well. Especially with Ken McGrath after coming in (as selector), they'll want to prove a point."
Speaking of points, the amazing thing is that Dublin have only accumulated one of them for all the hurling they have done against Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
At least Liam Rushe's last-second goal yielded a draw against Tipp, but O'Dwyer blames himself for the galling defeat in Kilkenny six days previously. Then, two late goals from those incorrigible Cats pilfered the points from a Dublin team that hurled heroically both before and after O'Dwyer's 43rd-minute sending-off.
Ultimately, though, fatigue seemed to conspire against 14 men in the home straight, and O'Dwyer admitted: "I take personal responsibility for that. It was my stupidity that got us into that position in the first place. I let my head get the better of me.
"I think we would have won that game only for me. I just have to redeem myself."
Mind you, he remains to be convinced on the actual merits of his double-yellow dismissal. 1 His second card came after a frontal collision with Richie Power, a decision that frustrated him on the day.
"I was frustrated with the first one as well - I thought it was harsh," he clarified, before adding: "I'm the type of lad that doesn't give up on a ball. Even if I feel I'm going to come out worse off, I'll go for it anyway. Unfortunately I lunged in and connected with Richie Power ... another day I could have got (there) a second earlier and it would have worked out."
As for the bigger league picture, O'Dwyer believes Dublin's lack of points masks a productive campaign that has seen them unearth young talents such as Eamon Dillon, Niall McMorrow and especially Danny Sutcliffe.
"He (Sutcliffe) goes out one week at wing-back against Galway and plays a stormer, and goes out two weeks later against Cork and John Gardiner is taken off. How often do you see that?" O'Dwyer mused.
The following week, it was Tommy Walsh's turn to be caught in Sutcliffe's slipstream: "It just shows, he has got cockiness in the right manner. He is very modest and down-to-earth ... he doesn't care who he is marking, he is going to deliver no matter what."
Which, you might conclude, it how O'Dwyer views Team Dublin - delivering no matter what.