Experience could give Dublin a slight edge
SOME SUPERFICIAL statistics might suggest a straight-forward Dublin victory tomorrow.
Clare have already lost to Waterford and Tipperary in championship with a cushy All-Ireland quarter-final against Down guiding them to this juncture.
There is also the return of eight Dublin hurlers who featured in last year’s, albeit comprehensive, All-Ireland final defeat to Galway – the only blotch on an otherwise excellent 2011 campaign.
“You couldn’t really compare last year’s team to this,” said Dublin manager Shay Boland, who in the same breath added: “We do have about 15 or 16 of last year’s panel back again.
“We have the same full back line although Seán McClelland has moved out to wing back but last year’s team was physically bigger, taller guys but we probably have a better panel.”
Cormac Costello’s presence around the midfield hardly has them worrying about aerial problems, but maybe the dual issue is something that could trip them up. Both Dublin minor sides fell at the final hurdle last year. Both are at the penultimate stage this time.
“It is a bit of a minefield, an added distraction,” said Boland.
“But if fellas are good enough, they are good enough to play both. I don’t have a problem with it really. They can prepare like professionals at the moment – how they eat, train, rest – as they are off school for the summer.
“We (again) have four dual players now that Donal Gormley has returned from injury. Had Donal been fitter a bit sooner he would have been pushing for a starting place in around midfield or the half back line.”
For the record the returning eight are: Costello, Eric Lowndes, Conor McHugh (all football minors), McClelland, captain Cian O’Callaghan, Colm Cronin, free -taker Paul Winters and Oisín O’Rorke; the third Kilmacud Crokes brother to feature in a successful Dublin minor attack after Barry and Shane.
So, in theory, a cakewalk for Dublin? Not so. Clare recovered from the Waterford defeat to overcome Cork and a fancied Limerick side before a strong Tipperary just had their number.
Also, Clare have consistently produced decent underage teams in recent years, with that Munster final defeat denying them a famous three-in-a-row, while the county’s under-21s this week won another provincial title.
Three-year veteran Jamie Shanahan and the fit-again Alex Morey (brother of senior wing back, Seadna) will go up against the powerful Costello and Cronin in the midfield scrap.
Bobby Duggan is a decent placed-ball striker, Conor Cleary a solid presence at centre back while Shane O’Donnell looks a decent prospect close to goal.
Incidentally, Tipperary meet Galway next weekend. Dublin should be awaiting them but only if they reach full potential.
DUBLIN: C Mac Gabhann; S Barrett, C OCallaghan (capt), E Lowndes; E O’Donnell, R Murphy, S McClelland; C Costello, C Cronin; C McHugh, S Treacy, C Conway; O O’Rorke, C Boland, P Winters.
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).