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'dubs have the savvy'

DUBLIN were barely out the gates of Pearse Stadium in Salthill last month before the imaginary parallels were being drawn back to their annus horriblis of 2012.

So they went and beat Clare, partly – it seemed – to prove to themselves that the drastic slide of that season was not something they were staring down. A ropey display in Waterford, a big win over Kilkenny and a narrow loss in Thurles later and Dublin have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they should compete this summer.

But the brass tacks of their last outing for 11 weeks is a loss in Walsh Park will leave them with the same end result as the spring of 2012: Relegation.

"This year, they're in a much better place than we were in 2012," said Maurice O'Brien, a member of that year's panel and the only Dublin hurler to retire from service at the completion of 2013.

"We were losing games continuously. We were competing at the start of the year but still losing every game.

"This year, they'll be happy with the League. Had they got out of Tipp with that points differential, they would definitely have been happy with the League, finding a couple of players and surviving.

"In 2012, there were a lot of major changes around the field," the Faugh's man continues.

"And then we were missing Keaney and Hiney and Tomás Brady. We were waiting for them to come and so we had a very topsy-turvy League, where you were counting on them coming back but not exactly sure what form they'd be coming back in.

"It's a good sign now that Liam Rushe is the settled number six. You can build a team around him because he has that stature. In essence, he's the Seánie McMahon of the team. You build around him. When he plays well, the team plays well as well.

"Now, they're very settled. They've played Colm Cronin and Cian O'Callaghan and they've had a very productive League, despite the position they're in."

If Waterford's form of the past two weeks bodes well for Dublin, Anthony Daly's team's record in Walsh Park doesn't.

"Had Danny Sutcliffe played down in Waterford, they probably would have won," O'Brien reasons of the three-point defeat in Waterford earlier this month. "He's one of the main men now. Had they had him, they probably would have come through that game."

And had Niall McMorrow stuck that last ball over the bar in Thurles last Sunday, Dublin would be gearing up for a quarter-final rather than battening the hatches down for a slog in Waterford. According to Daly though, over-elaboration was Dublin's downfall in the first against Tipp, a period when their dominance was not adequately rewarded with a matching margin of superiority.

O'Brien sees that as part of a process, though.


"They're playing a better possession game around the middle of the field," he reckons, something which – against a packed defence like Waterford's – could pay dividends is executed correctly.

"Rather than just putting in on top of wherever the spare men are, they're picking passes and bringing into possession in the half-forward line, where you can take scores from.

"I think they'll win," concludes O'Brien.

"But it's tough. There will be a big crowd. Very vocal.

"It's a tough place to get a result. But there is enough savvy about the team now. I think they'll get the win."

So do we.

ODDS: Waterford 11/10, Draw 9/1, Dublin 10/11