Monday 19 November 2018

Dublin a tougher proposition than league form suggests

Pat Gilroy won’t let Dublin be steamrolled. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Pat Gilroy won’t let Dublin be steamrolled. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Jamesie O'Connor

The consensus is that the meeting of Dublin and Offaly on June 3 will determine who ends up out of the top tier and playing in the McDonagh Cup in 2019. I don't think it's quite that straightforward when it comes to the Dubs. Whatever psychological hang-ups they might have about Galway or today's opponents Kilkenny, I'm not sure there's a player on the Dublin team that's lost a Leinster game to Wexford. Deep down the Dubs will expect to beat Offaly, especially in Parnell Park. One other win should be good enough to get them to a quarter-final.

But that's for another day. The here and the now is a resurgent Kilkenny, who have plenty of previous when it comes to putting the Dubs back in their place.

With the Cats crowned league champions and the Dubs mired in 1B we haven't seen a shred of evidence in 2018 that today will be any different. But whatever gulf in class, there's surely no way a side managed by Pat Gilroy will allow itself to be steamrolled by Kilkenny. In the tighter confines of Parnell Park, with a decent crowd behind them, Dublin could be a tougher proposition than people think.

Looking at the team Gilroy has picked, Eoghan O'Donnell might wear the number nine jersey, but he'll surely spend the afternoon in a defensive role. It could well be attached to TJ Reid, with Sean Moran dropping back to sweeper. O'Donnell is a good player, and curbing Reid, who had a tremendous league, is vital. Remember, there's no Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly is on the bench, and with three debutants in attack, Ger Aylward and Walter Walsh might have to pick up the slack if Reid is held.

At the other end, assuming they play a sweeper, it will be a challenge to keep pace, with only five forwards. Four of those - Liam Rushe, Conal Keaney, Paul Ryan and Danny Sutcliffe - carry a wealth of experience, and a couple of them will be out to prove a point, given how things played out under the previous regime. That said, the absence of Eamonn Dillon and Donal Burke will be felt, and you have to wonder if they'll be able to get enough scores on the board.

Just how good this Kilkenny team are remains to be seen. Salthill in a fortnight's time may be a better barometer. They'll win today, but the Dubs mightn't be as far off the mark as their league form indicates.

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