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Richie Power, Kilkenny, in action against Ryan O'Dwyer, left, and Michael Carton, Dublin. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Richie Power, Kilkenny, in action against Ryan O'Dwyer, left, and Michael Carton, Dublin. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Conal Keaney, Dublin. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Conal Keaney, Dublin. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

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Richie Power, Kilkenny, in action against Ryan O'Dwyer, left, and Michael Carton, Dublin. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN'S hurlers know precisely what to expect this week. Because not since night began following day has a succession seemed so certain as the underdogs-always-lose-replays line which will dominate coverage and conversation of their Sunday just gone and Saturday to come.

"The backlash from Kilkenny and 'you only get one chance' and all this kind of stuff," acknowledged Conal Keaney of the inevitable slant which from which their achievement of a draw with Brian Cody's All-Ireland champions will be viewed and the absolute expectation of normal service resuming next Saturday. "But we're still in the Championship and we're going to give it another crack next Saturday."

Which is as straight-forward an assessment of where Dublin lie now as you're going to get this week. And there was, it must be noted, no great hysteria outside or inside the Dublin dressing-room on Sunday, no defiant statements of intent and little palpable feeling of massive regret.

"It's a very good result for us," acknowledged David Treacy calmly, perhaps reflecting best the contrast between the measured and practical way in which Dublin reacted to the result and the shock with which everyone else did.

"A lot of people didn't really give us a chance. But we feel that we had our minds right and everything right so we felt confident enough going into the match. It could have gone either way towards the end. We were delighted not to have lost but slight feelings that we left something behind us as well."

The significance of the result – outside a purely pragmatic context – is hard to scale exactly.

After last year's humbling by Kilkenny and subsequent collapse to Clare, it seemed entirely plausible that the cycle of this team was concluding somewhat ingloriously and that perhaps Anthony Daly's time was coming to an end or at least, a re-generation of the group was badly needed.

Prove

The new season brought no new blood and a decent Division 1B campaign but nothing – absolutely nothing – that suggested that Dublin had in their locker what they produced on Sunday: the most significant result of Daly's reign and unarguably their best performance.

So yes, Dublin proved a point. But that, according to Keaney, was only a by-product of the day.

"I don't think it's really about that," he insisted. "We have to prove it to ourselves more than anything.

"We let ourselves down a couple of times before and it was about really producing a performance which was good enough and that we were happy with. I don't think we really did that (on Sunday) either.

"I think in the first 10 or 15 minutes we were kinda nervous and waiting to see what they'd be like and what kind of a team they'd have.

"I think if we just concentrate on ourselves we won't be far off it."

In a cold, hard hurling context, the signs for Dublin are good. Peter Kelly's unflappable demeanour was only momentarily ruffled by Walter Walsh's goal in yet another excellent, high-octane display at full-back, while Paul Schutte alongside contributed his best performance in a Dublin jersey.

Liam Rushe, a five-minute spell of aerial brilliance to his name, showed signs of recapturing his best form in a position and against a man (Richie Power) which will both be vital on Saturday night while Johnny McCaffrey had his best game for Dublin for an age, operating primarily as a spare man as Brian Cody dropped a player, Cillian Buckley, back into defence.

Conal Keaney, particularly in the last 10 minutes, put in a Trojan effort while the contributions of both Dotsy O'Callaghan (sure to start the next day) and Mark Schutte from the bench will give Daly plenty of room for tactical manoeuvre next week.

Caught

"They caught us last year and a lot of people were saying it would be great to get another chance but on our form, we have been playing well," insisted Treacy. "We played well against Wexford. We thought we were in a good place. We knew if we got our game right that we could have a good performance."

And it's not as if Dublin produced some tactical nuance or gimmick which Kilkenny weren't expecting which directly contributed to their dominance and now, after failing to manufacture the win, their cover is blown.

"I think we all performed pretty well, we all worked very hard," Keaney summed up.

"We didn't let anything external affect us and I think that's the way for next week, just keep the head down and it's a game of hurling at the end of the day.

"If we produce a performance like that, it'll be good enough again."


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