Injuries mar Offaly hopes of ambush - Duignan
THE timing is interesting, the similarity uncanny and the possibilities intriguing.
It's exactly 20 years since a county which had finally made the Allianz Hurling League breakthrough after decades of failure headed into the first round of the Leinster championship as 'certainties' to beat rivals who had been relegated from Division 1 following a dismal campaign. The outcome? Long Odds Outsiders 0-19 Red Hot Favourites 0-14.
In 1991, the favourites were Offaly while Dublin were the supposed no-hopers. The roles are reversed this time as league champions Dublin are priced at 2/7 to beat Offaly (7/2) in the Leinster quarter-final on Sunday.
Offaly manager Joe Dooley was on the Offaly team which experienced the dramatic turnaround in 1991, going from league champions to championship casualties in six weeks, so he is well placed to tell his players of the opportunity the county's current lowly rating offers.
His playing colleague Michael Duignan also felt the force of fate's heavy hand and believes that if Offaly were to be at full strength on Sunday, they would have a real chance of emulating Dublin's achievement of 20 years ago.
"If Offaly had all their players available they would have a big chance," said Duignan. "Unfortunately that's not the case, which is going to make it awfully difficult for them. But Offaly are a summer team, they play well at Croke Park and, as we saw against Galway last year, they love it when they're written off.
"My one fear as an Offaly man is that we've lost too many good players due to injury. You can cope without one or two but we've lost lads all over the place."
Offaly go into Sunday's clash minus the injured quartet of James Rigney, David Franks, Paul Cleary and Joe Brady, while former captain Brendan Murphy is also unavailable.
Dublin's league triumph just under four weeks ago has raised expectations, something Duignan believes could be more difficult to cope with than Dublin realise.
"If you hammer Kilkenny in the league final, you're expected to beat Offaly. That's a new pressure which the Dublin players haven't experienced before," he said.
"Joe (Dooley) and the Offaly players will be trying to exploit it and, in normal circumstances, would have a right good chance of defying the odds. But with so many injury setbacks, it's asking an awful lot against this Dublin team."
Of course it wouldn't be the first time that Offaly hurling has ignored an outsider rating.
"We were 4/1 to beat Cork in the 2000 All-Ireland semi-final and we managed it. You never know with Offaly. They'll be up for an ambush."