Dublin's Nolan delighted to grab championship chance
DUBLIN hurling manager Anthony Daly faces a selection quandary over his goalkeeper for the Leinster final against the winners of Galway v Kilkenny on July 6.
Dubs No 1 Gary Maguire lost his battle to be fit for their championship opener in Wexford Park and regular sub Alan Nolan stepped admirably into the breach.
Nolan has been on the panel since 2006, but has played only a handful of top class games because of Maguire's consistency.
Daly's men came through Saturday's tricky challenge minus Maguire and Danny Sutcliffe and with Liam Rushe not fully fit after recovering from a hamstring injury.
In the circumstances, Nolan might have been seen as a weak link by Wexford, but he didn't let anyone down, making a number of good saves and seamlessly fitting in with the defenders in front of him.
Wexford broke through for the only goal of the game, scored by Podge Doran after Nolan parried a Conor McDonald shot, but a strong defensive display prevented a recurrence.
The St Brigid's, Blanchardstown 'keeper revealed he had been told early last week that he was to feature in the Wexford game.
"Anthony said he wasn't chancing anyone 50-50, so Gary just wasn't fully right," Nolan said.
"He just said: 'Get yourself ready.' I was delighted to know that early so I could get myself focused for the match, so thank God for that. I'm delighted. When you're on the bench, you're thinking: 'I'd be able to do what they're doing every week,' but when you get thrown in it's actually, can you do it?
"I haven't been able to make as many appearances as I'd like, but I just keep pushing all the way.
"It's very tough, but you can see that there's only one person in your way really and you have to be prepared if he gets an injury or suffers a lack of form."
Saturday offered that opportunity and Nolan quickly dispensed with any suggestion he might suffer from nerves.
"I'd be more nervous for a Brigid's game, to be honest. As I said to you before, I've been waiting for so long," he added.
"It was nice to get a few touches early on and get your confidence going when you haven't played, but the backs, in fairness, did some amount of work to reduce their shots."
Wexford put it up to Dublin and full-forward Conor McDonald made some terrific catches from the high balls around the Dublin danger area. Nolan had to be vigilant, but his defenders, particularly Stephen Hiney, Paul Schutte, Peter Kelly and Liam Rushe, kept their concentration and focus.
"Of course, they needed a goal but, like, the hooks and blocks our guys made to stop them and force them into mis-hits and the likes was fantastic," said Nolan.
Dublin are now faced with the challenge of becoming the first Metropolitan hurling side to successfully defend the provincial crown in 42 years.
That's a statistic Daly won't heed and nor is he concerned that, pre-championship, Dublin slipped down the pundits' tips for glory.
"The reality is that I knew that as a Clare man. Even though we won the All-Ireland in 1995, no-one feared us in 1996," he said.
"This is our fourth Leinster final in six years and that speaks for itself.
"These boys are really maturing and they give everything."