DUBLIN will hope to address a disappointing past two campaigns when they take their championship bow against Laois in their Bord Gáis Leinster U21 Hurling Championship tie at Parnell Park tomorrow night (7.30).
The Dubs have experienced successive losses to Laois and Carlow over the past two years, reflecting a poor return on minor panels that had contested All-Ireland finals in both 2011 and 2012.
Whether that has added extra motivation to Dublin’s challenge will be seen in Donnycarney tomorrow evening but team manager Joe Fortune insists that situation has not added any extra pressure onto his panel.
“I think that some of the players who have been involved over the past two campaigns may see this year as a chance at redemption following those defeats in previous years,” said Fortune.
“However, what has happened in the past is largely irrelevant when it comes to the match against Laois and all I can say with certainty is that our lads have been hugely focused on the task in hand from the start.
“The lads have taken a lot of lessons on board after last year’s disappointment and the main one is not to look too far ahead.
“Laois are a formidable challenge and all our energies are focussed on getting a positive result against them and hopefully, taking it on from there.
“We have had no less than 26 players at our training sessions since we began collective training and the attitude of the players since we convened has been exemplary.”
Of added encouragement to the Naomh Mearnóg clubman has been the form produced by a number his panel in the recent group games of the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship.
The likes of Ballinteer’s Aodhán Clabby, Tom Devlin from St Jude’s and Matthew McCaffrey of Lucan Sarsfields have all impressed in the past month and Fortune will be hoping that form can be maintained in the Dublin jersey.
“We have been out watching the championship and some of the lads have put in excellent displays for their clubs.
“That is encouraging from their own perspective as it gives them confidence and some players have really put themselves in with a shout for selection based on what they have produced for their clubs and while training and playing challenge matches with us.”
One of those challenge games saw the U21s take on their senior counterparts in Parnell Park last Tuesday as both teams looked to hone their competitive instincts ahead of tougher challenges in the coming weeks.
Both sides showed sufficient endeavour for the exercise to be worthwhile on many fronts and Fortune hopes his panel can benefit from their exposure to playing the senior outfit so close to the Laois clash.
“It was very good for the lads to get an opportunity to play the seniors last week and I think both teams benefitted from the competitiveness that both sides showed on the night.
“Naturally, some of our lads would have genuine aspirations to become seniors down the line, either in the long term or possibly trying to force their way into the reckoning for this summer. As a result, lads were trying to make a mark and I was encouraged by what I saw from them and I believe that match was what both teams needed in terms of preparation,” he said.
One potential issue for Fortune and his selectors is ensuring that they maximise the potential within the panel with the knock-out nature of the competition highlighting the need to select the most efficient Starting 15 on the night.
“We are tapping away well and for myself and the other mentors, the team selection is the toughest thing.
“A lot of lads are standing out and grabbing opportunities in training and while that is very encouraging in that it increases our options, we need to ensure that the balance of the team is right for Wednesday night.
“We have a seriously good bunch of players to pick from and there is a responsibility on the management to make sure that the lads have the best chance possible of progressing in this championship and that means getting the best players on the park.
“We know how tough it will be against Laois but if the lads can produce a performance on the night, they are more than capable of achieving a positive result.”
DUBLIN (U21HC v Laois): Conor Dooley (Ballyboden St Enda’s); Seán McClelland (Lucan Sarsfields), Cian O’Callaghan (Cuala), Matthew McCaffrey (Lucan Sarsfields); Eoghan O’Donnell (Whitehall Colmcille), Rob Murphy (Kilmacud Crokes), Chris Crummey (Lucan Sarsfields); Glen Whelan (Ballinteer St John’s), Conor Robinson (Ballyboden St Enda’s); Paul Winters (St Brigid’s), Kevin O’Flynn (St Sylvester’s), Colm Cronin (Cuala); Oisín O’Rorke (Kilmacud Crokes), Aodhán Clabby (Ballinteer St John’s), Caolán Conway (Kilmacud Crokes).