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Peter Kelly, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Peter Kelly, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Peter Kelly, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

IT seems quite fanciful now (bizarre even) but exactly a year ago, Dublin were the brightest dark horses for a championship hurling match all season as they embarked for Portlaoise with the Cats' blood in their nostrils.

All that after relegation from Division 1A and Walsh Cup defeat to a Laois team out of whom they subsequently beat the last dying whimper in Leinster.

This year, Dublin have won the Walsh Cup, escaped the barren hurling wastelands of Division 1B at the first attempt (taking Tipperary's subsequent Munster conquerors Limerck out in a final) and, albeit at the second attempt, disposed of Wexford to ensure two tough – if not entirely enthralling – warm-ups.

And now, they're considered cat fodder.

"I suppose maybe last year, we read into the hype a bit too much and this year, we are focusing a lot more on ourselves," says Peter Kelly, Dublin's play-anywhere defender.

"We've definitely had a good start to the year anyway. And we're going to bring that preparation to the game next week and hopefully it will go our way."

If Kelly sounds buoyant, that's possibly because he has been one of Dublin's more effective players over the two, tense Wexford battles.

First day out, he played full-back and began there in Parnell Park too. And when Andrew Shore was sent off after half-time and he, Michael Carton and Niall Corcoran had just two men to contend with, Kelly thrived.

game-plan

"Our game-plan didn't change at all, really," he says of Wexford's numerical decline. "We had our work-rate up to scratch and to be honest, I think we had already started well at that point so we just kicked on.

"It probably affected them a small bit for five or 10 minutes and we probably punished them and got a few scores. That probably proved the difference on the day.

"We weren't happy with our performance last week," Kelly continued. "We knew we didn't perform and we knew we were lucky to get a draw. I suppose getting that extra game and getting that championship rust out of the system probably helped.

"We got a good start last week. We got a good start this week. But we were smart enough to kick on and not let them get a foot back into the game like we did last week."

The tactical upshot of the victory is that at least now, Daly knows his optimum team. Conal Keaney at wing-forward, Liam Rushe at six and, most likely, Stephen Hiney and Paul Ryan both back in the team. Ryan, surprisingly dropped for the drawn match in Wexford Park, typically nailed all of his frees and, just as vitally, clipped the only goal of the match at a time when Wexford were just beginning to realign after Shore's dismissal.

"That's one of his attributes: he's clinical," Kelly notes.

"Everything he goes for, he gets a score off it or he wins a free.

"I was delighted for him. I'm sure he wasn't far off man of the match."

Of Hiney, Kelly says: "He's a massive leader on the team.

"Seeing him come out with some of those balls and even seeing him come back from that injury he had a couple of years ago, it's a great boost to the team.

"All we can do is worry about ourselves," the Lucan man adds of Dublin's daunting, but hardly unfamiliar exam this Sunday.

"We have a few days now to set our stall out and get preparation up to scratch. We will try and give Kilkenny a rattle now. We'll really look forward to it.

"We want to kick on again," Kelly concludes. "We're not happy to put up a performance together and just try and play Kilkenny. We want to raise it again and raise our standard high and let Kilkenny try and reach us."

3THE Leinster Council has pushed back the throw-in time for Sunday's Kilkenny/Dublin SHC semi-final at Portlaoise until 3.50 (instead of the original 3.30 start) to facilitate the possibility of extra-time in the minor curtain-raiser between Laois and Wexford.


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