ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1A
KILKENNY v DUBLIN
(Nowlan Park,Tomorrow, 2.30)
DUBLIN passed the point of no return with regard to moral victories a long time ago so what, then, did last Sunday's defeat by Cork constitute?
A narrow defeat besides, there were signs of life from Dublin that were largely non-existent in their League opener in Salthill a fortnight previously.
The zeal was back and the performance but what must have pleased Anthony Daly the most was the fact that there wasn't a whole lot wrong with the outing that can't, with the help of close scrutiny, be fixed in the short-to-medium-term.
Concentration levels must rank highly on Daly's list of things to do, though. On nine occasions last Sunday, Cork scored within 90 seconds of a Dublin raised flag.
Not to underestimate the accuracy, invention and cuteness of Donal Óg Cusack's puck-outs, but that's a statistic that can -- and should -- be swiftly decreased.
Secondly, the concession of 2-7 from play to a still fairly green half-forward line is far, far too much so there, immediately, are two areas of improvement which will need stern attention over the coming weeks.
Yes, there were errors aplenty, loads of wides and a curious inability to win their own puck-outs in the first half but all of the above, you imagine, are merely symptomatic of the relatively early point in the calendar at which we find ourselves.
And it's worth noting, that there were plenty of rusty men out there for Dublin last week. Liam Rushe was expected to be out for weeks but threw himself about the place and caused general mayhem at full-forward after coming in for 'flu victim, Shane Stapleton.
Similarly, David O'Callaghan came in and showed a couple of flashes of class after suffering a bout of pneumonia while Ryan O'Dwyer hadn't trained at all since the Galway game.
The likes of David Treacy, Ross O'Carroll and Michael Carton are all finding their feet at this level after missing various lengths of top class hurling for differing reasons over the past couple of seasons loads of match practice is the prescription on those fronts.
All that said, Kilkenny aren't the sort of side to facilitate such things. And the idea of cruising through spring in third gear is a concept utterly alien to Brian Cody and his players.
They have already crushed Tipperary and Waterford and if there is even a feint sparkle of a trophy in the distance -- particularly one for which they incurred so much flak for not winning last year -- they're inclined to drive on towards it.
The likes of Mathew Ruth and TJ Reid have been making big impressions thus far but, as ever, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, Tommy Walsh, Michael Fennelly, JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan et al are justifying their spots in the team and their ever-expanding reputations.
An interesting aside, however, will be how Dublin's new hot-shot, Danny Sutcliffe, copes with the attentions of either Walsh or Delaney after two fairly spectacular performances to date in his fledging inter-county career.
The reality for Dublin is, they need to take points off one or possibly both Kilkenny and Tipperary in the next two weeks if they are to have any hope of avoiding a relegation play-off. They won't manage it tomorrow.
ODDS: Kilkenny 1/6, Draw 14/1, Dublin 9/2.