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Burke stars as Dubs get off the Laois

Leinster SHC: Dublin 3-21 Laois 0-23


Dublin’s Donal Burke shoots past Ryan Mullaney of Laois to score a goal during the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Croke Park

Dublin’s Donal Burke shoots past Ryan Mullaney of Laois to score a goal during the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Croke Park

Dublin’s Donal Burke shoots past Ryan Mullaney of Laois to score a goal during the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Croke Park

Given the context, it seemed more appropriate to ask Mattie Kenny was there any aspect of Saturday evening that he wasn't happy with.

As the Dublin manager pointed out himself, this was Dublin's first Championship match in 14 months, their first competitive outing since March 1st.

So to score 2-31 in an empty, echo-ey Croke Park against Laois, their 2019 conquerors, seemed ideal preparation for next Saturday, when they crash shoulders with Kilkenny in Croke Park again.

Notably, the subject of last year's bitter defeat in O'Moore Park wasn't one publicly discussed by the Dublin camp last week.

And you got the feeling that as he spoke on Saturday night at a small, round table placed in the middle of the Hogan Stand that served as a post-match press conference venue, Kenny was quite happy to put that memory to rest.

"You can't stay looking backwards the whole time," he pointed out.

"I was hugely frustrated," he recalled, "but it's probably the media that gets hung up on the past occurrences more than management teams themselves.

"You're always looking at the next training session or game.

"What's behind you is behind you and you've just got to learn whatever lessons that come out of it and move on.


"Last year were we disappointed? We were very disappointed, bitterly disappointed, over our performances that day and we went to dust ourselves down and go again and look forward to 2020.

"There were times that there were concerns or doubts that this championship would ever even go ahead so we were all just delighted to be back hurling."

There was no doubt who the evening's bright spark was.

Last year, Donal Burke opted off the Dublin panel and spent the summer in America.

On Saturday night, he hit 1-16 and put on a clinic of placed-ball striking. His craft and skill were like a breath of clean air in an attack that looked occasionally stagnant during the League.

"Donal has been a great player since he was 16, 17," Kenny pointed out.

"He was always a great talent coming through and we in Dublin were delighted this evening to see him doing it out there at senior level.

"He's a very, very skilful player, a great striker of the ball and in fairness to the young lad he got some lovely scores."

That he did.

Burke's first half goal gave Dublin the separation their play probably deserved.

But the metronomic accuracy of his free-taking kept them ahead of a Laois team who took some fine long-distance scores themselves, but never really threatened to create a goal.

For Brennan, the extent of Laois' defeat was bitterly disappointing.

"It's character-building," he stressed. "It's how good are the group together, how good are the group going to respond, how together are we?

"Team sport by its nature is that, you learn together and you kick on and we take the positives and say 'at times we punched hard out there, we played well but you have to be able to sustain that, and that's the target."

One thing that both managers agreed upon was that Saturday night was weird.

"The emotion of the crowd isn't there," Kenny noted of the sterile environment in which the game was played.

Brennan agreed.


"It's brutal coming out of the tunnel at the start of the match and there's no reaction from the crowd," he said.

"That's the last little jolt of adrenaline when you come out to the field."

And it was hard not to conclude that the game and its patterns had been affected by the weird circumstances.

"It seemed very open, I thought," Kenny reckoned.

"Is this going to be a sign of things to come in the championship without the crowds?

"That the emotion the crowd gives...it's more an open game of hurling are more free scoring (without them).

"So it will be interesting to see does that pattern maintain as we go along in the championship."