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Hurling: Minor matter of focus for Boland

DUBLIN will hope to reach their first All-Ireland MHC Final since 1983 when they face Waterford in their All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park this Sunday afternoon (1.30).

The Dubs lost a low-scoring encounter to Galway in '83 and subsequent provincial victories in 2005 and 2007 failed to provide a national crown to the four already won at minor level, the last being in 1965.



OPTIMISM

Such a statistic highlights how difficult it has been for Dublin to gain tangible reward for all their developments at underage level in recent times, although their form during their successful provincial campaign offers genuine grounds for optimism.

However, it has been over five weeks since Dublin beat Kilkenny in the Leinster Final and the challenge in regaining their momentum from that victory over the Cats (1-14 to 1-11) is the greatest obstacle to Dublin's ambitions according to team manager Shay Boland.

"There is definitely a sense of starting all over again after Leinster. There will be a six-week break between the Leinster final and Sunday's game with Waterford and it is crucial that we get the heads right on the day.

"It's been difficult to maintain the intensity in training over such a long break and although we've had a number of challenge games against senior club sides recently, they cannot replicate the level of intensity we're expected to encounter."

Dublin's competitive inactivity is in marked contrast to the Déise men, who came through their quarter-final against Kilkenny with relative ease a fortnight ago, and Boland expects another tight encounter to see which county progresses to face Galway (semi-final victors over Clare last Sunday) in next month's decider.

"To be fair, it's hard to gauge any team at this level and Waterford are no different," added the St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh clubman.

"We know that they are a decent side and there is very little between both sides.

"I see the game as a 50/50 call and whichever team plays the best on the day will prevail."

With pre-championship favourites Clare exiting the competition last Sunday, Dublin will rarely have a better opportunity of ending their barren run of 46 years and Boland hopes that his charges receive the same level of support that proved so crucial in their Leinster Final win over Kilkenny.

"The crowd that day were magnificent and we'd love to receive similar numbers next Sunday as it would give us a huge boost," he said.



Amazing

"The atmosphere was amazing that day and I would encourage all Dublin supporters to get to Croker early next Sunday and make your support known as it can be hugely beneficial to the players."

Dublin will enter the game with a clean bill of health, bar two injuries to fringe panellists, with their four dual players coming through last Monday week's All-Ireland MFC quarter-final win over Cork, but there are still selection headaches for Boland ahead of announcing his team either tomorrow or Thursday evening.

"It was great to see the four lads come through unscathed last Monday and it was handy to have the extra week with them.

"Having said that, we've tried a few things out in recent challenge games that haven't quite worked out and the structure and personnel of the team is still to be decided," concluded Boland.


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