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8 June 2013; Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Wexford. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Wexford v Dublin, Wexford Park, Wexford. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

8 June 2013; Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Wexford. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Wexford v Dublin, Wexford Park, Wexford. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

8 June 2013; Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Wexford. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Wexford v Dublin, Wexford Park, Wexford. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

FIRST, the good news for Dublin.

They have, in a very real way, fulfilled their minimum obligations for the year and hit all their pre-existing targets.

Promotion? Check. Wexford? Check.

Even the Walsh Cup will have the name 'Dublin' carved into its body beside the year 2013 whenever it's dispatched back to Leinster Council.

Yet, judging by the outpouring of revulsion from the purists who viewed their bloody two-match war with Wexford, you'd swear they had used pointy sticks rather than hurleys to poke their way into tomorrow's Leinster semi-final.

But if you were to be flower-child optimistic about it, there are reasons for the cheerful Dub to embark upon the midlands with a heightened sense of buoyancy tomorrow.

Sort of.

With all the above chalked off, there is little pressure on Dublin to do any more this year, at least not in Leinster anyway, where the big, brute force which faces them tomorrow represents a large asterisk in all yearly reflections.

Dublin have made Leinster finals in the recent past without much fanfare, but if they do it brandishing Kilkenny's scalp, it will give the achievement new context.

And when Judgement Day does arrive, and all the various hurling managers assemble at the pearly gates and have their rap-sheet read back to them, they will surely be forgiven their big defeats by Kilkenny.

Similarly, there is precisely none of the expectation or hype about Dublin that afflicted their entire season last year, particularly that embarrassing chastising in Portlaoise a year ago tomorrow.

And from purely a preparation point of view, things have been ideal for Anthony Daly.

He has, as of yesterday morning anyway, no major injury concerns and a fully-fit panel who have, at least, the momentum of successive matches on a pair of hot weekends and no debilitating battle scars to prove they were ever there.

And given that Wexford have consumed their minds for all of the past month, it's probably no harm that Brian Cody's men have only entered the players' thought processes in recent days.

Against all that – they're facing Kilkenny.

And for all the various lines of progress charted by Dublin over the past five years, they have flatly failed to perform against Kilkenny in the Leinster Championship.

The league? Regularly, even spectacularly on occasions. But never – ever – have Dublin been able to close the gulf once the serious hurling starts and even on the sole criteria of recent form, that trend doesn't seem to likely to be ruffled.

And in the championship meetings between the sides under Anthony Daly's watch, perhaps the most revealing statistic is that Kilkenny have scored 12 goals in four games whereas Dublin have managed just one.

And the fear here is, while most teams can take a beating against Kilkenny, brush it off as being a sore-but-necessary stage of their development and crack on, it's not clear yet whether Dublin have healed enough from last summer to do the same.

Against that, if they can produce a big performance tomorrow, they could leap a couple of steps back up hurling's ladder.

Signs of vulnerability in Kilkenny tend to disappear quicker than they emerge, however.

Kilkenny were, apparently, quite sluggish against Offaly, yet conceded four goals and won by eight points.

Dublin beat Wexford by eight points too, but we'll never know how that match might have gone down had Andrew Shore not been sent off so early on.

The bright sparks from that night were Conal Keaney at wing-forward – an area of the pitch where success is badly needed if Dublin are to make any dent in Kilkenny's brilliance tomorrow – and Danny Sutcliffe and Ryan O'Dwyer. All three will need to do much more than break even with Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and Kieran Joyce.

The goals Offaly scored as a result of their aerial bombardment are unlikely to fall out of the sky for Dublin either.

Firstly, because it's unlikely JJ Delaney will be caught out twice in a row and secondly, because – barring a redeployment of Liam Rushe at full-forward – Dublin's attack just doesn't have that physical presence.

Ditto the pace possessed by the Kilkenny attackers, who are sure to have a severe case of goal lust after their green-flag blank in Tullamore.

The rule of thumb in these sort of situations is: when in doubt, tip Kilkenny. And even when you've a strong hunch they'll be beaten, tip them anyway.

There can, on the basis of all known evidence though, be little doubt about this one.

ODDS: Kilkenny 1/16, Draw 16/1, Dublin 10/1

VERDICT: Kilkenny


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