LIAM RUSHE believes the time has come for the Dublin hurling squad to "step up and actually do something" after successive seasons of underachievement.
And the lessons from disappointing championship defeats to Limerick and, in particular, Antrim in the last two seasons were hard-learned, the St Pat's, Palmerstown, player believes.
"It (Antrim) was a shocker match," he said. "It looked like we were cruising and then it blew up in our faces. The main thing is concentration -- see it through. That's what winners do. You've seen Kilkenny do that for how many years now; just see out the win, finish it off.
"It really shows the importance of the mental aspect in any sport. We really have to build ourselves up for every game and not underestimate anyone. Just go out there and focus on your own performance.
"The defeats by Limerick and Antrim will make or break this current group of players. It's time for us to step up and actually do something. The building period is nearly over. This is my third year and David Treacy and Peter Kelly are in their third or fourth years."
Rushe accepts that switching Dublin's National League games against Kilkenny and Tipperary to Croke Park will suit the visitors.
"I suppose we are handing them a bit of an advantage in that we are used to playing at Parnell Park," he agreed. "Parnell is a tight pitch and matches there are generally a physical battle.
"When we do lose there, it is normally by only a couple of points. It has been a fortress for us over the last few years. We don't have any real home advantage if we are playing at Croke Park. But, all the same, we like to play there."
Dublin's forward options have strengthened considerably by the capture of former Tipperary player Ryan O'Dwyer and the decision of Conal Keaney to finally throw his lot back in with the county's hurlers.
"It will make us stronger really," said Rushe, who is expected to line out for UCD in today's Fitzgibbon Cup opener away to Waterford IT. "That's what we have needed for a few years. Dublin isn't exactly exploding with big, quick forwards.
"We've plenty of big lads in the backs but we seem to produce forwards like Dotsy (David O'Callaghan) and Niall McMorrow -- smaller, quicker players. They've been our trademark for a while. But now we've a few lads that are big enough, strong enough, ideal half-forwards or full-forwards."