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Hunger is there: Lane

Dublin will hope to claim their first All-Ireland U21 hurling title when they contest the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling Championship final against Galway in Semple Stadium, Thurles later this evening (7.00).

The Dubs have appeared in just three finals since the competition's inauguratione back in 1964, losing all three, with the 5-11 to 0-12 loss to Galway four years ago as dispiriting an afternoon that Dublin supporters have endured in recent years.

Sean Lane was manager of that 2007 selection and cites genuine grounds for optimism that we won't witness a repeat of that one-sided encounter later tonight. "Genuinely, I think Dublin have a great chance of winning this evening," he said. "I would have been involved with coaching a fair few of them down the years and they're a great bunch.

"They are very well managed and coached and their second-half performance in winning the Leinster final against Wexford was as impressive as you'll see at this level," added Lane.

Certainly, the underdog status that night suited Dublin as they preyed on Wexford nerves and expectation, with the intensity and drive they brought to Wexford Park that night a crucial aspect of their play according to Lane.

"I love the hunger that Dublin have, especially when they don't have the ball. When the opposition have the ball, they work their socks off in trying to get it back as quickly as possible.


"There is a serious intensity to how they play the game and their attitude has been top class throughout. The amount of hooking and blocking that they do is immense and that can be seen in their defensive record this year," noted the Ballinteer St John's manager.

That Dublin have kept their four opponents to date goalless over four hours of hurling is testament to that attitude and Lane is full of praise for Dublin's defensive set-up, although he expects a far tougher test of credentials this evening.

"Galway are a side that historically thrive on goals, as in the 2007 final, and Dublin will be well on their way if they can keep up that record.

"I like the look of Darren Kelly at full-back. He's very much in the old style of defender and he does a great job minding the square, and of course Liam Rushe will have a huge role to play from centre-back.

"He (Rushe) has had a fantastic season and deserves an All-Star for how he's played this year.

"He's a wonderful fella and I would love to see him win an All-Ireland medal and lift the cup this evening as he deserves any success that comes his way," said Lane.

If Dublin are to prevail, one senses the key battles will be across Dublin's half-back line with Rushe earmarked to follow the dangerous Niall Burke, who hit seven points from play in Galway's semi-final win, while both Barry Daly and Tadhg Haran cannot be afforded the time and space they were given by Limerick that night.

At the opposite end, Dublin have made one change with Thomas Connolly replacing Sean McGrath and there is no question that the Dubs possess sufficient talent to trouble a Galway defence, despite the sustained brilliance of the Tribesmen's full-back, Niall Donoghue.

Whether they receive sufficient ammunition to showcase these talents is another matter and the onus will be on Conor Gough and Danny Sutcliffe at centrefield to ensure a healthy supply of ball, with Lane expecting vital contributions from Dublin's inside forward line.

"I have a huge amount of time for both Kevin O'Loughlin and Niall McMorrow in particular," he said. "I've worked with them when manager of the UCD Fresher's side and they are both dynamite corner-forwards and they are without question two of the best corner-forwards at their age in the country," said Lane.

Dublin's four games, although spread out over a three-month period, should give them an advantage in terms of consistency and tactical approach although Galway were quick into their stride against Limerick and could benefit from not showing their hand to any great degree so far.


How last year's demoralising final, in which they shipped a 25-point hammering at the hands of Tipperary, affects the Connacht side will be another key factor for what should be a far closer tie than the minor final between the counties last Sunday, which Galway won well, 1-21 to 1-12.

With the exception of their semi-final win over Antrim, Dublin have tended to start sluggishly and a repeat of that trend could seriously undermine their ambitions of a surprise result.

However, there is a hunger and drive associated with John McEvoy's side and if they can continue their excellent defensive record, Dublin could well make history and claim their first All-Ireland at this level by 8.30 this evening.

Verdict: DUBLIN