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'Hard man' Hiney back up to speed despite injury absence

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Stephen Hiney, Dublin. Picture: Daire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

Stephen Hiney, Dublin. Picture: Daire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

Stephen Hiney, Dublin. Picture: Daire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

ON a night mostly of purely practical benefit for the Dublin hurlers in Parnell Park in Donnycarney, the return of Stephen Hiney to the trenches surely ranked amongst the main reasons to be cheerful for Anthony Daly.

"Yeah, he had a long road with injuries but he's a hard man," Daly gushed, after Hiney, making just his second start of the year, chipped in with a typically full-hearted and gutsy 70-minute display in a half-back line which, for the purposes of better arming the Dublin attack, was deprived of Conal Keaney's significant presence.

"Delighted for him as well, he has worked so hard and he has a very demanding job as well – delighted with him in there now.

"A tough road to get back, a lot of cycling to build up that leg."

Hiney, of course, was – along with Keaney and the now vanquished Tomás Brady – one of the famed 'three cruciates', the coverage of whose progress in recovery from cruciate ligament injuries became something of a sideshow last year. Yet Hiney's wasn't 'just' a straight-forward, GAA-player-tears-cruciate-ligament story.

Full tears on the cruciate and lateral ligaments, a partial tear on his posterior ligament, all suffered in over-reaching for a ball in Wexford Park in March 2011 meant it was four months before he could undergo surgery to repair such extensive damage.

Once back, he played in both the massacre of Laois by Dublin and the annihilation of Dublin by Kilkenny in last year's Leinster SHC but wasn't even a sub in Ennis as the Sky Blue hurlers limped out of the championship.

He subsequently, underwent an operation on his ankle – an injury linked to the knee ordeal – over the winter, playing no part in Dublin's League campaign until the Carlow match in Parnell Park, the penultimate game of their 1B campaign and very much a 'gimme' for Daly's men.

On a purely superficial hurling level, Hiney never looked like a man who played just one League match this year on Saturday night.

Formula

His touch and striking showed up no traits of under-use and he was, in every respect, at the pace of the match.

And perhaps just as importantly, he is a man for the trenches of Portlaoise this Sunday, just as he fought his corner admirably and when scuffles broke out in the meaty lulls after some of the more X-rated Wexford challenges.

"We thought after last week we needed to put him in there, we felt we were pushed around a bit and you won't get that with Stephen," explained Daly of his selection.

More than likely, the Clareman will resist tampering with his winning formula this week, though both Shane Durkin and 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan did their chances of a promotion back to the starting ranks little harm with productive cameos.

And of the players replaced, Paul Schutte might come under sternest pressure for his jersey having been taken off at half-time a week after lasting only slightly longer in Wexford Park. This week, no doubt, will be largely about belief for Dublin, particularly given their spectacular underperformance in their last brush with hurling aristocracy against Tipperary in the League semi-final, although it must be said that Daly predicted the Premier's fall to Limerick in Munster on the suspicion that the Treatymen would have said belief in their locker arriving to Thurles that day.

"I said that after the league final and ye were smiling at me but I thought Limerick were a good team all year and were geared for that match," Daly added. "That's 1-17 (Dublin scored) two weeks in-a-row.

"We were told Tipperary had a special forward line, all that movement, they got 1-15 (against Limerick)," he concluded. "It's probably okay for them to do that. But we can't."


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