Sunday 21 January 2018

High-scoring Dubs eyeing final glory

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

WHATEVER about there being few takers for Dublin hurlers at 66/1 to win the Allianz Hurling League last January, nobody would have backed them to be top scorers at the end of a Division 1 campaign where they had four away games.

And with Tipperary and Kilkenny, neither of whom are strangers to Croke Park, coming to town for two of Dublin's home games, the openings to record large returns looked extremely limited.

However, in what has been Dublin's best League campaign for 65 years, they picked up seven of eight points on the road and three of four points against the 'Big Two' in Croke Park, leaving Parnell Park to present them with their sole setback when they lost to Galway by 2-11 to 0-14.

It was the only game they failed to hit the net, the only outing where they scored less than 18 points and very definitely the only day when their post-match frustration levels reached the red zone.

With even a marginal improvement in their accuracy, they could have had at least 20 points as they shot 19 wides, compared to seven by Galway.

Still, it showed just how many openings they created, a pattern which has been consistent all season.

It leaves them heading into Sunday's final as the division's top scorers, two points clear of Galway, five ahead of Kilkenny and 27 ahead of Cork, who were expected to be in contention for a place in the final when they won two of their first three games.

There's no doubt that the acquisition of Conal Keaney, who decided to switch allegiance from the footballers, and Ryan O'Dwyer have been major contributors to Dublin's much-improved strike rate.

Anthony Daly always had high hopes than Keaney would be lured back to hurling but O'Dwyer's arrival from Tipperary came as an added bonus -- he has settled in extremely well in an attacking unit that averaged 2-17 per game against the best defences in the game.

That's new territory for Dublin -- the lack of a consistent yield by the forwards undermined them so often over the years.

However, they will be acutely aware that their footballing counterparts went into -- and came out of -- last Sunday's final as their division's top scorers but still didn't win the title after suffering a defensive meltdown on the home stretch.

Irish Independent

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