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Rebel raid on croker cards

IT'S amazing how one game can colour the mood about a county team. Or, to put it more accurately, how one bad performance can colour the public's perception about that team.

Dublin hurlers started this campaign as Allianz League champions. The last time they had scampered away with that crown, 72 years previously, GAA sponsorship was unheard of and the word Alliance (never with a z!) was generally associated with Allied forces protecting the world from Armageddon.

Now Anthony Daly's men are just one game into their spring title defence. That game was lost in deflating fashion -- by seven points -- to a Galway side that belied its youth and relative inexperience.

Suddenly, the world of Dublin hurling is no longer sky blue. Liam Rushe (hip) and Peter Kelly (knee) have been ruled out of tomorrow's Croke Park collision with Cork. For a team already painfully accustomed to coping without its Battle of Wounded Knee trio (Messrs Keaney, Hiney and Brady), the short-term loss of Rushe and Kelly is not necessarily fatal but it seriously weakens Daly's already-depleted hand.

The Clareman is now without his two standout full-backs, making it all the more important that centre-back Joey Boland rediscovers his top form after a ropey afternoon in pursuit of Galway's free-scoring Niall Burke.

It would be foolish to start predicting a glorious Rebel revival under Jimmy Barry Murphy, based on just one prolific 3-17 haul against Waterford ... but, by the same token, teenager Conor Lehane (0-7 from play) looks a prodigious talent and Paudie O'Sullivan (2-1 against the Déise) has shown his eye for goal in the past.

While Dublin's defensive resources have been stretched, their league opener hinted at greater problems up front -- predicated on the ongoing absence of Keaney, the latest injury to Rushe, and the ineffectual display of their starting full-forward trio who, between them, failed to trouble the scoreboard from play.

It goes without saying that Dublin need a bigger performance from Paul Ryan tomorrow, both from play and placed balls, while David Treacy needs games after his nightmarish run of injuries.

Perhaps the one quality Daly will crave above anything, though, is a return to the gung-ho attitude that was Dublin's trademark through last season. Against Galway, at times, it seemed as if they were waiting for things to happen.

Tomorrow, against an emboldened Cork, they must make it happen.

But we'll finish on an upbeat note. Sweeping 70-minute judgements made at this time of year can look very foolish very quickly.

It's entirely possible that Dublin will deliver a major backlash performance tomorrow ... and they have form in this area.

Two years ago they were walloped by Waterford 4-13 to 0-12 on day one of the league. A week later they faced a fancied Tipperary ... and blitzed them 1-21 to 1-12.

The sliotar is in their court.

DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Schutte, R Trainor; M Carton, J Boland, S Durkin; J McCaffrey, D Sutcliffe; C McCormack, R O'Dwyer, S Lambert; D Treacy, S Stapleton, P Ryan.

ODDS: Dublin 13/8, Draw 9/1, Cork 4/7