DUBLIN under-21 hurlers have performed one giant-killing act already this summer but will have to produce another one in tomorrow's Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21HC semi-final against Galway (6.0) if they are to defy both the bookies' odds and cruel luck their preparations have been dealt.
Manager Richie Stakelum has had to plan for tomorrow's duel without four players who would have made the starting XV. David Treacy, Shane Stapleton and Paul Schutte were all ruled out through injury while Rory O'Carroll's involvement with the senior footballers also rules him out of the equation.
The Dubs travelled to Nowlan Park in June as outsiders and emerged as comfortable five-point victors (0-17 to 0-12), but tomorrow's under-strength side will have to produce a display that registers even higher on the shock-o-meter if they are to progress to meet either Tipperary or Antrim in the decider.
"It's devastating really what has happened to the panel since our Leinster final win," said Dublin U21 selector, John McEvoy.
"To lose players of the calibre of both David Treacy and Shane Stapleton to long-term cruciate injuries is very tough to take for all concerned.
"Obviously, our principal concern is with the welfare of the players and firstly we hope they make a full recovery and we will certainly give them all the support they need in their recuperations," he added.
"Well without wishing to overstate our difficulties, we're potentially missing a third of what could be considered our starting fifteen but looking on the positive side of things, we've met plenty of obstacles along the way and we've managed to overcome each and every one to date.
"Going down to Nowlan Park in our opening game was a huge ask for us and despite not playing to our usual standard against Wexford, we managed to pull through in the end which is very positive from my perspective," stated McEvoy.
McEvoy and his fellow selectors will certainly not underestimate the challenge that Galway present with the Faughs clubman full of admiration for the underage achievements of the Tribesmen in recent times.
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham has two minor teams that contested All-Irelands (2008 and 2009 -- winning in '09) to select from with Ger O'Halloran, Niall Donoghue, Joseph Cooney, David Burke, James Regan, Bernard Burke, Niall Burke and Davy Glennon, along with the much vaunted Richie Cummins and Jason Grealish in the panel. Add to that the fact that four of his panel won both Fitzgibbon and Walsh Cups earlier this year -- Paul Gordon, Declan Connolly, Barry Daly and Gerry Kelly -- and the strength in depth at manager Cunningham's disposal is easy to see.
"Galway have unbelievable pedigree at this age group having won an All-Ireland (under-21) in both 2005 and 2007 and they narrowly lost to last year's winners Clare at the semi-final stage too so there's no doubting their threat.
"They also won last year's minor and were beaten finalists the year before and we expect them to be a formidable opponent. Given the difficulties we've experienced, we hope to have great support the next day.
"The lads are a very professional and grounded bunch and have given their all to Dublin hurling and to their clubs and they are a credit to themselves," concluded McEvoy.
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