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Silver lining if the Blues were to lose


Dublin supporters Tony Broughan, left, and Richard Hughes from Cabra at the Dublin-Wexford clash. Picture: Sportsfile

Dublin supporters Tony Broughan, left, and Richard Hughes from Cabra at the Dublin-Wexford clash. Picture: Sportsfile

Dublin supporters Tony Broughan, left, and Richard Hughes from Cabra at the Dublin-Wexford clash. Picture: Sportsfile

WE know this is heresy; we know it could land Curve Ball in a cesspool of shame and disrepute charges; but ... should the stuttering Sky Blue hurlers contemplate the unthinkable this weekend?

Namely this: if they really fancy a sustained run in pursuit of that tantalising target called Liam MacCarthy, they would be far better off losing to Wexford.

There, we've said it! The genie is out of the bottle, and we now sit back and await a registered letter from the scandalised gentlemen of the CCCC.

Our throwaway comment urging throw-it-away malfeasance may be designed to ensure a cheap laugh, but there is – actually – a serious context. And it's this: the way the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers are structured, it can actually pay to exit your province earlier.

Saturday night's Dublin/Wexford replay is a classic case in point. Last weekend, an error-blighted but grimly fascinating battle went down to the wire in Wexford Park. If Eamonn Dillon hadn't pounced for that late goal, the Dublin hurling revolution would have suffered another, potentially ruinous, setback. If Jack Guiney's nerve had deserted him over that last-gasp free, Wexford would have been left cursing a futile morale victory.

Instead, both protagonists must do it all again – and it's safe to assume they'll be going hell for sliotar in Parnell Park.

And the prize that awaits the winners? Kilkenny. Gulp.

This is where the perceived inequity of the qualifier system, small ball style, comes into play.

Last Monday's SHC qualifier draw proved an act of kindness to whoever loses Dublin/Wexford Mark II. They will face a preliminary round at home to Antrim and then, all ambushes safely avoided, another home tie against Carlow in Phase 1.

Now, the Dublin seniors know all about 'back door' banana skins involving the Saffron invader, while the notion of conveniently overlooking Carlow because you're a Dub and you're at home is surely worth revisiting in light of very recent and traumatic U21 happenings in Parnell Park.

But ... you get our drift. If Dublin were to lose against Wexford but manage to avoid morale meltdown in the aftermath, they should beat both Antrim and Carlow. In which case they'd qualify for a Phase 3 qualifier against a Phase 2 winner.

And who'll be in the Phase 2 hat? Basically, the four Leinster and Munster semi-final losers, paired on cross-provincial lines.

Now, even if Wexford were to emerge as a Phase 2 winner, they almost certainly couldn't meet Dublin next as Phase 3 is subject to avoidance of repeat pairings, where feasible.

In all likelihood, Dublin would have to overcome one beaten Munster semi-finalist (either Tipperary or one from Clare and Cork) to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals. A tall order but not quite mission impossible either – especially as they would have two redemptive victories (over Antrim and Carlow) in the bank.

All clear as mud? Maybe if we explain the alternative All-Ireland route for Dublin, you'll get the picture.

Let's suppose Dublin beat Wexford but then lose to Kilkenny eight days later. That would make it five Leinster championships on the spin where they have succumbed to those stripey assassins – the previous margins were six points (2009), 19 (2010), 11 (2011) and 18 (2012).



Presuming history repeats itself, a Dublin team deflated by Kilkenny would go straight into Phase 2 qualifier battle with a Munster semi-final loser. Again, that would be either Tipp or the losers of Clare/Cork.

And even were they to pull off this considerable coup, the prize would be ... another tough qualifier, in Phase 3. Moreover, given the restrictions about repeat meetings, there would be every chance they'd end up against either Offaly or Waterford.

In other words, Dublin might have to topple two Munster heavyweights to reach the quarter-finals were they to beat Wexford (but fall to Kilkenny) .... but only one such Munster rival in the event that they lose this weekend.

We suspect that Anthony Daly has long stopped reading. He's too busy searching for Dublin's missing mojo.