Cyril Farrell: 'Dublin have waited a long time for chance like this - they need to take it'
WHEN the ball breaks your way, you need to be alive and alert. It can be the difference between winning and losing and there can be no excuses and no hard luck explanations, certainly not in the championship.
Dublin hurlers find themselves in that position today. Without having had to do anything, their chances of beating Kilkenny have soared as injury after injury hit the Nowlan Park camp.
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Dublin wins over Kilkenny are rare but how often have they been handed an opening like this? Even with a full squad, this would have been a tough game for Kilkenny, but it's a lot harder now that they have lost so many from the spine of the team.
No one is going to underestimate Kilkenny's capacity to dig out a win in the most difficult circumstances, especially with Brian Cody making the plans, but if ever Dublin were to make a big statement this has to be it.
Mattie Kenny is in his first season as manager, but the squad is quite seasoned. They know that it's time to move away from the 'work-in-progress' and 'still developing' modes and actually deliver.
Win this evening and, at a minimum, getting into the All-Ireland stages as one of Leinster's three is very much in their own hands. They will beat Carlow and with Wexford and Galway coming to Parnell Park, it would be nicely set up for them.
Kenny had an advantage over other outsider managers going into Dublin as he knew the scene in detail from his very successful spell with Cuala. He didn't have to spend as much time checking out players as otherwise would have been the case, which was a big help.
Well-primed It means that Dublin should be well-primed and ready to go in a province where, with respects to Carlow who are progressing well without being quite at this level, it's three from four to head for the All-Ireland stages.
This evening's game is very much Dublin's to lose. They had a good league and now find themselves facing a below-strength Kilkenny side.
Cody can only do so much to compensate for the absentees and while you can be sure Kilkenny's spirit will drive them with constant ferocity from start to finish, this could be an occasion when not even the Nowlan Park factor saves them.
Galway have a gentler entrance to the championship, even allowing for Carlow's excellent performance against them in the league. It's unfortunate for Carlow that they haven't got their first game at home, but Colm Bonnar will try to make the best of the hand he's dealt.
He'll probably opt for a defensive set-up early on so to help his team play their way into the game and see where it goes from there.
The big interest in Galway is how they structure their attack without Joe Canning. They have had seven weeks to plan for it, so it's not as if it was sprung on them.
Canning is a huge loss, but there are lads on the panel who will see his absence as a great chance to make an impact. It's a test too for the leadership qualities in attack. Canning has led that role for a long time - indeed he was still at it when he picked up the nasty injury against Waterford - so it's up others to step forward now.
The next few games will tell a lot about where Galway stand on that front. They'll win this evening, even if it could be more testing than the odds suggest.
I'm going for two 'away' wins in Munster. Waterford have to make the return to Walsh Park count against Clare and while Tipperary are still an unknown quantity, they just might have enough for Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.