Liam Rushe confident 'flying' star Danny Sutcliffe will be back in time for opener
DUBLIN hurling All Star defender Liam Rushe is backing team-mate Danny Sutcliffe to be fit for action when the Leinster champions open their campaign next month.
Sutcliffe suffered a broken hand in a club match and faces a race for fitness ahead of the June 14 provincial semi-final. The Dubs play the winners of the Wexford v the Round Robin series winners and, with over five weeks to go, Rushe hopes Sutcliffe can recover.
"Knowing Danny he'll probably be back with three weeks to spare.
"If he missed the match, he'd be a big loss. He nearly won the relegation game on his own with the two or three goals that he got.
"He is absolutely flying, but if he's not fit, it opens the door for someone else. One of the younger lads, or someone coming back from injury, might get a shot," said Rushe.
Allowing for the strength in depth in the squad and players eager for their opportunity, Rushe still hopes that Sutcliffe's hand can heal in time for June 14.
The St Jude's clubman stepped his performances up last season to the level of winning an All Star award and set an example for younger players to emulate.
"He's a class apart at times. Hopefully, we can get him on the scoresheet a bit more this year as well," said Rushe at an event to mark Toyota's 30th anniversary of sports sponsorship.
The wait until mid-June to get the championship season under way will be filled by Dublin with training, challenge matches and breaks for club action.
Training venues and their suitability for hurlers was mentioned by Brian Whelahan of Offaly earlier this week, as he highlighted the lack of a suitable centre in the Faithful County for his players. Dublin hurlers utilise various venues at different times of the year, including Bray Emmets' ground, and O'Toole Park in Crumlin.
It's not a huge issue, but Rushe hopes that the new GAA venture at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown can eventually provide the Dublin hurlers with a settled training home.
"I think a training base for the hurlers has been planned for about 10 years, but it hasn't materialised yet. We're all half hoping we might get our hands on that Blanchardstown complex if it's ever put to us.
"Variety is the spice of life, I suppose, and a lot of the time, in the summer we'll just get the best pitches in Dublin, so we'll end up in Castleknock or maybe Clontarf's ground in St Anne's.
"Those pitches have a far better surface than Parnell (Park) or DCU or anywhere like that.
"In an ideal world you'd have a perfect pitch and astro turf and our own set-up, but it's not an ideal world is it?" he said.
Most pundits are tipping Wexford to succeed against the Round Robin winners, a match that will be played on June 1.
No doubt Wexford boss Liam Dunne will be cautioning his players against complacency, but whoever comes through to play the Dubs, Rushe & Co will want to be ready to fire on all cylinders.
They nearly got caught by Wexford in their first outing of 2013 down in Wexford Park and can't allow themselves to be sluggish on June 14.
"I think that first game last year was just an anomaly. We were flying for the first 15-20 minutes and then the wheels just came off.
"You can't explain away 15 or 16 wides. You are going to find it hard to win any game when you are hitting the ball wide that often. That's what I would put that down to.
"Aside from that, we weren't that bad on the day, as it turned out.
"We also have a stronger panel this year. Colm Cronin and Cian O'Callaghan are ready to start.
"We have lost nobody, touch wood, to serious injury yet, so compared to previous years, we're in great condition," said Rushe.