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Boland's shooting from hip on Déise

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Joey Boland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Joey Boland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Joey Boland. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

JOEY BOLAND doesn't beat around the bush. He could plámás you with player-speak about this Sunday being all about "performance"; that what happens in Walsh Park is irrelevant in the bigger Championship scheme of things.

Instead, Boland considers the ramifications of Dublin's Allianz Hurling League Division 1A relegation play-off with Waterford and admits: "It's a must-win, it really is."

He goes on to explain: "Putting relegation aside, we've lost three matches, we've only won two. That's below-par for us from a results point of view.

"We have to get back up to at least 50-50, so we want to have won three and lost three at the end of the league. That's really what we're looking at, so we can break up and go to our clubs and come back raring for the Championship. So it is a must-win."

Considering their home victories over heavyweight rivals Clare and Kilkenny, Dublin could theoretically feel short-changed by their play-off fate, which was only sealed by Tipperary's superior scoring rate.

But Boland sees no purchase in deflecting the blame.

"It's our own fault really," he says, speaking at an AIG sponsorship launch in Carton House yesterday.

"We started the league quite badly down in Galway – so if we had started the league with a win, we wouldn't be in this position.

DING-DONG

"We had a couple of good performances since then, been on the wrong side of one or two ding-dong battles... we're kind of happy that it's in our own hands."

Na Fianna's Mr Versatile has been a Dublin mainstay of the middle-third throughout the Anthony Daly era, featuring at half-back, half-forward or midfield.

In the latter role, he excelled during last summer's history-making Leinster title run – and also against Kilkenny 11 days ago.

He was sidelined by an ankle injury for their Salthill opener, a result that left Dublin playing catch-up from the off.

Yet it was the insipid performance that really rankled, drawing the following frank admission: "We were psychologically badly prepared going down to Galway. And in fairness to Galway, they owed us one (from last year's Leinster final), they were ready for us."

But why weren't Dublin psychologically ready? Surely they were forewarned by previous events at Pearse Stadium, where they lost another league opener in 2012 en route to eventual top-flight relegation?

"We have discussed this since then," Boland said.

"Sometimes, you just don't realise that is setting in because you are always (using) positive reinforcement going into these matches.

"It's only really when you get that kind of a setback that you step back and say 'Well, maybe we thought that we were, but we actually weren't'. That's sport, you know, you see it happening. Waterford turn up in Clare and get an absolute hiding after beating us the week before... it's just hard to put your finger on."

Ah yes, Waterford. Boland returned from injury for their regulation league clash earlier this month, resulting in another away defeat.

Now, Dublin have suffered another loss – of the toss – for home advantage for this Sunday in Walsh Park (3.30).

"Well, a lot of people are saying that home and away advantage is a three-point margin these days, especially in the league," Boland said.

"We've got the advantage of having played there two or three weeks ago, so I think it's a level playing field. I'm sure we'll get a nice bit of support on Sunday and hopefully we'll come out on the right side."

Whatever about away-day trends this spring, historically Dublin have struggled in Waterford over the past decade.

Boland points out that they drew there in 2011, while, this year, they "only lost by three in the end, a bit of a messy match.

"To be honest, it's not really in the back of our heads. It's Waterford, it's on a pitch, we're not really going to fear them."

BATTLE

A pitch, mind you, perhaps best suited to a Battle of the Somme re-enactment.

"There wasn't much hurling done that day," Boland recalls of that recent Walsh Park battle.

"Some described it as a bit like a rugby match – there was 10 on one side of the field, 10 on the other side.

"We're actually quite good at that because we play in Parnell Park and it's a bog half the time.

"If it's out in Croke Park in the middle of open spaces, we've the legs for that; if it's in a bog, we've got the bodies and strength for that.

"Whatever turns up, we'll be ready for it."


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