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'we must drive on to victory'

THERE'S an old saying which warns bubbly optimists that just because your wife dies, it doesn't mean your house can't burn down too.

Dublin's under-21 hurlers should take note. After David Treacy's cruciate ligament injury a couple of weeks back, they must have felt they had exhausted their quota of bad luck for the season -- but no.

Less than a week later, free-taker Shane Stapleton did the same trick in a challenge match, thus ruling him out of hurling until next May at the earliest.

Given the loss already of Paul Schutte (injury) and Rory O'Carroll (senior football involvement), they were two cruel and unusual blows and have denied Dublin a third of their favoured attacking alignment.

"Treacy and Stapo will be huge losses," says Oisín Gough, a clubmate of Treacy's and a fellow senior panellist. "They're very unfortunate. Two cruciates in a week, basically. So the mood in the camp wasn't great, especially after we heard about Shane. It was a huge blow. He would be our main free- taker. Treacy would be our main scoring threat.


"But we just have to soldier on really. We have lads pushing to get in so it's going to be a big mix up for the six forwards against Galway."

The loss of O'Carroll may yet prove the most significant to Dublin but Gough says his absence is understandable.

"We would have had a settled enough team but we knew with Rory that it was senior intercounty football," he notes. "Senior football is always going to take preference. He has his eyes on the prize. A senior All-Ireland. What more would you want? We kinda knew the team would be shifting around all year. We just weren't expecting so many injuries."

That Dublin will be significantly understrength when they take to the O'Connor Park pitch this Saturday (6.0) for their clash with the Tribesmen for their Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland semi-final inflates the notion that a talented Galway side are favourites and Gough himself notes that for all the strides made by Dublin underage sides over the past decade, they have to fulfil their potential outside of Leinster.

Of the Leinster titles the various Dublin teams have won in the past five years (minor in 2005 and '07, under-21 in '07 and this year) only the under-21 team of 2007 have won their subsequent semi-final (against Derry), though this year's vintage are looking to increase that strike rate.

Yet Gough, who was a member of the minor team of '07 who beat Kilkenny by six points in the Leinster final but were denied a place in an All-Ireland decider by Cork, reckons Dublin's post-provincial blues stem from a significant increase in quality of opposition at national level.

"I think just the Munster hurling -- it's a different mentality again," he says. "It's another step. But we just keep our head down, work hard and don't think about favourite tags or anything like that. Just go out and do your best. Just go out and win."

Those favourites tags have dogged Dublin in recent years at all levels. Gough admits he is "still bitter" about the senior team's one-point loss to Antrim in the qualifiers last month but hopes under-21 success can raise spirits in the county again. "There was some highs and lows," he says. "After the win against Clare, we thought we were going well but then again, we didn't up our game against Antrim. I don't think the favourite tags sits well with us.

"I don't think the team is mature enough yet to drive on and win when they're expected to win. Hopefully it will come soon enough. At underage, we seem to be alright with it because we've had it growing up and we've been winning Leinster titles and things."

As for Galway on Saturday, Gough says their lack of a provincial championship puts them under the radar coming into the match but on the basis of their recently proficient minor teams, says Dublin will be up against it.

"Galway are always good at this level. We'll be up against it but hopefully, we can drive on and win," he concluded.