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Tipp to further damage Dublin

IF the Dublin hurling bandwagon is often accused of lacking perspective in times of relative prosperity, so too must it answer to the charge of knee-jerk pessimism in the sort of situations in which they currently lie.

Granted, two flat performances and a pair of heavy defeats on successive weekends are a cause for repairs but the wheels haven't come off just yet.

Still, the listless nature of the Dublin performances against Waterford and Galway is a cause of major concern.

One of those absolved from blame, David O'Callaghan, admitted that the Waterford defeat was something of a "reality check".

O'Callaghan's hamstring injury ruled him out of both Dublin's Walsh Cup final defeat by Galway and the opening league loss in Walsh Park but, after a five-minute Fitzgibbon Cup cameo for UCD against UL on Thursday, 'Dotsy' has been listed to start at corner-forward tomorrow against Tipperary.

"It was an eye-opener," says O'Callaghan. "We know ourselves as players that that's just nowhere good enough for Division 1.

"If we keep playing like that, we're going to be in serious trouble. We're going to have to improve on last Sunday's display to go anywhere."

The only ray of light in an otherwise dark and grim day was the news of Alan McCrabbe's injury. It was initially thought that Dublin's All Star midfielder had broken a leg, thus ruling him out for the season.


Later, it transpired he had merely suffered heavy bruising and, thankfully for Dublin, he plays tomorrow.

"It's a massive boost," admits O'Callaghan. "At the time, we were all fearing the worst.

"Alan would have been a massive loss. Thankfully, it hasn't turned out to be so bad. Alan's a big player for us."

O'Callaghan's inclusion is one of two changes to the Dublin line-up. The St Mark's attacker comes in for Kevin Flynn, while Simon Lambert replaces Joey Boland but, as O'Callaghan himself explains, the element of surprise from which Dublin benefited last year is all but gone.

"Getting to the Leinster final, other teams are maybe taking us more seriously," he notes. "They're probably more tuned in to us and our game as well.

"That's something we have to deal with. But if we want to improve again and keep improving, we're going to have to deal with things like that."

Unfortunately for Dublin, though, Tipperary -- in their current state -- are possibly the last team on earth you want to face when the primary task is the rebuilding of some confidence and the establishment of a little early- season momentum.

Quite how riled up Liam Sheedy had them for their two postponed fixtures with Kilkenny, we'll have to wait until March 7 to find out, but those players straining at the leash to get at the Cats will be fresh and hungry for tomorrow, and Dublin are firmly centred in their firing line.

If anything, Sheedy has named an even stronger team to play Dublin than he had selected for Kilkenny, with Conor O'Mahoney's inclusion at centre-back and Lar Corbett's selection at corner-forward giving the side a real championship feel.

That inside forward line of Corbett, Eoin Kelly and Noel McGrath is really as good as it gets and, if they catch fire early, they're capable of incinerating the Dubs' rearguard.

Expect an improved display from Dublin but no change in their points tally at the end of the game.

ODDS: Dublin 4/1, Draw 12/1, Tipperary 1/5

VERDICT: Tipperary