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21 April 2013; Dublin's Liam Rushe after the match. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1, Semi-Final, Tipperary v Dublin, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

21 April 2013; Dublin's Liam Rushe after the match. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1, Semi-Final, Tipperary v Dublin, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

21 April 2013; Dublin's Liam Rushe after the match. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1, Semi-Final, Tipperary v Dublin, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

LIAM RUSHE doesn't mince his words when reflecting on Dublin's traumatic re-engagement with the inter-county elite.

They had come to Thurles with a pep in their step for their recent Allianz League semi-final. After 70 chastening minutes in the slipstream of Tipperary, they trudged off the same pitch feeling "embarrassed" and "humiliated".

Strong stuff from the 2011 All Star but, with the benefit of hindsight, he reckons that 15-point defeat may be a blessing in disguise. Timing is everything; far better to suffer such a "wake-up call" now than in the height of summer.

"It's better to fall on our faces at the end of April than to do it at the start of July, like we did last year," Rushe pointed out.

"It was plain-sailing up 'til then. We'd won the Walsh Cup and 1B – although 1B was tight enough. So, it just showed us not to get complacent really. There's a lesson to be learned from everything. We were embarrassed really, walking off the pitch. We were humiliated then, and nobody wanted to go training at all that week, so maybe it's probably good to get a bit of a kick in the arse before the championship starts."

Just a fortnight earlier, instead of being the scene of the crime, Semple Stadium had provided the backdrop to a gutsy victory over Limerick in the Division 1B decider. Escaping the league's second tier had always been Dublin's primary spring goal – but surely the gloss of achievement was dulled by subsequent events?

"It was the agony and the ecstasy really, wasn't it?" said Rushe, speaking at a Croke Park press conference where it was confirmed that Liberty Insurance will sponsor both the All-Ireland senior hurling championship and the camogie championships as part of an initial five-year agreement.

"We were on top of the world there on the Saturday night after beating Limerick; we achieved our goal, promotion, after getting relegated last year. And then, two weeks later, I suppose Tipp just showed the gulf that's there between Division 1A and 1B. They had five or six seriously competitive games in the year, we probably only had one or two – and I think it just told on the day."

One of the post-match theories was that Dublin had trained like demons ahead of that league semi-final. Rushe ascribes a certain amount of truth to the notion but doesn't use it as an excuse.

"We did a fair bit of physical training alright. We didn't really approach it as the biggest game in the year," he reflected. "I think, talking to a few Tipp lads, they kind of prepped for it properly and treated it a bit as a championship game, and I think we kind of went flat out up to the Tipp game and then said, 'Okay, well here's the match'. Looking back on the video ... we did look tired, we were second to every ball.

 

Missed

"We won't put it all down as tiredness; there were a lot of missed touches and dropped balls and stuff like that as well. I just don't think we were up to the pace that day – or maybe we weren't quite up to the pace at all yet."

Given that Dublin pushed Tipperary all the way in an All-Ireland semi-final just two years ago, the key question is whether that league chasm will be there come summer? Rushe can't give a definitive answer.

"When it comes to championship, I don't know ... I think they were just that bit ahead. Competitive games like that, at speed, do bring you on.

"When you're just relying on training games and stuff like that, it's a bit tough. Hopefully now, come championship, we'll have narrowed it again. Just have the skills up to scratch."

And the heads right too, because a Leinster quarter-final opener in Wexford Park – on June 8 – will not be for faint hearts. "Wexford have certainly got their house in order," he maintained. "With Liam Dunne in charge, they're probably a younger side than they have been in the past few years and they're definitely going to be organised.

"There's going to be a massive partisan crowd and they'll be looking to get behind them, any chance they can get. So we'll just be looking to impose ourselves on the game. Just be focussing on ourselves as much as we can, and hopefully that will be enough on the day."


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