Rushe sticks to forward thinking for Dubs' cause
IT'S almost three years since Dublin went to Nowlan Park in the league and snaffled six goals from Kilkenny.
It wasn't the win it should have been. Playing the final half hour with 14 men after Ryan O'Dwyer's dismissal, they were chinned on the line.
Still, eking six goals from the usually miserly Cats rearguard was an achievement in itself.
Liam Rushe was full-forward that day. He managed only a point but he had a hand in plenty more with JJ Delaney being called ashore before the hour mark. On the same day, young tyro Danny Sutcliffe took Tommy Walsh for 2-3.
But what might have been a springboard to bigger things proved only to be a false dawn. As it happened, the 2012 championship was a disaster for Dublin. The Cats put them out of Leinster, winning comprehensively, and Clare did the rest.
It also seemed to bring an end to the debate surrounding Rushe's best position. When they made history and won Leinster the following year, he was firmly ensconced at centre-back and seemed to be there for the long haul until Ger Cunningham redeployed him at No 14 this year.
"I would have seen it as a failed experiment from a few years ago but I think we have different personnel now in a big way than we had then," Rushe said of his days as a forward.
"And I think there is a lot more balance and maybe it might work this time. There are different lads pushing through.
"You are experimenting up until championship and that's the way it goes. I think we had me, (Conal) Keaney and Peter Kelly in the half-back line there in championship two years ago and that died pretty quick so I think it is all up in the air until mid-summer.
"I suppose it is a small bit more serious that he has continued it on. We'll see how it goes for the league."
Rushe has always seen himself at the heart of the defence but on last week's evidence, where he helped Dublin dismantle Tipperary and chipped in with a goal, it's hard to see Cunningham make many changes when they head back to Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Rushe's positioning on the edge of the square could be seen as attempt to bolster an attack that has struggled to hit big tallies at times though the Palmerstown man believes they have the talent, if not the numbers.
"I suppose if we learned anything from last year it was that maybe we did lack a bit of depth," he said. "When we lost Danny and (Mark) Schutte off the bat in the first couple of weeks, that put a bit of a dent in our firepower.
"With both of them back this year, and we're just trying to get David Treacy right, he's looking good, and throwing myself back up there, we've a few options now. There's a good bit of competition in the forward line.
"The major find really has been Trollier (Eamonn Dillon). He was probably pinned in the corner for the last couple of years and I think as soon as Ger saw him in the running sessions he said, 'Why is the fittest man in the team corner-forward?'
"He brought him out and he probably makes the biggest goal threat because he comes streaming by any time I get the ball so all you have to do is offload it to him. It's either foul him or let him through on goal so it's a hard choice for any defender.
"If you can just keep everybody fit and keep the competition there ... Try and pick a championship full-forward line or championship half-forward line, there's a big name probably going to miss out in that so that's what we need."
Kilkenny remain the yardstick and they'll get an early-season chance to see exactly where they stand.
The Cats' performance against Cork made a mockery of suggestions they could be vulnerable with so many missing through club duty, retirements and suspension.
"We're looking forward to it. I think there was a lot of talk in the media about Kilkenny being at half mast or whatever for the league with so many lads retired and injured and that.
"But I think they showed they weren't on the first day. There's such competition in that panel
"I'd say there are probably players there in Kilkenny that have been watching the likes of JJ (Delaney) and Henry (Shefflin) and were dying for a chance.
"Now they see a certain number of players retired or injured or tied up with Ballyhale, those players will be chomping at the bit to get going.
"Was there the same level of competition on the Cork panel? Were those guys as motivated? Winter hurling … a lot of it is about motivation.
"It does come back to basic hunger. Those Kilkenny lads looked half-starved out there."