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Cian O’Sullivan: ‘Any outsider would say Dublin are underperforming at the moment’

Dublin start their Leinster hurling campaign away to Wexford on Sunday, but it already feels like a pivotal clash for both teams

The one thing Cian O’Sullivan needs little reminding of is the pivotal significance of Dublin’s opening game in the Leinster hurling championship. And he is aware of its similarly pivotal significance to Wexford.

The sides meet in Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday (2pm), and given the recent dominance of Galway and Kilkenny in the province, it’s viewed by many as an early third-place play-off to stay in that race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Wexford would also appear to be the in-form team, drawing with the likes of finalists Kilkenny and eventual champions Clare in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League, while Dublin secured only two wins, over Westmeath and Antrim in Division 1B.

“I’d say any outsider would say Dublin are underperforming at the moment, and that’s fair enough,” says O’Sullivan. “All you have to do is look at the league table results.


“Wexford have had a pretty decent league campaign, with regards to a new management [Keith Rossiter] and new players coming in.

“This game definitely is significant, [if we win] we can focus on Carlow and focus on Kilkenny without too many nerves at the back, knowing we’re going to have to be in a do-or-die position against Galway at the end of the championship.”

In saying all that, O’Sullivan also sounds quietly confident, pointing to the increasingly settled feel to this Dublin team under manager Micheál Donoghue, now in his second full season in charge.

“I think there is that confidence there in the camp, when everyone is firing and everyone is doing what they’re expected to do, we can put it up to anyone.

“We’ve had a few very good challenge games in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had a few very good training sessions. Bit of bite to them. That’s all that’s needed really to drive on for the championship.

“I suppose every team gauges their year on how they get on in the championship and last year we drew with Galway in Croker, then we had a poor enough display against Kilkenny down in Nowlan Park.

You kind of want to be getting to the Leinster final. That’s something that every team is really targeting at the moment because that sets your platform then to go on to an All-Ireland semi-final.

“I would consider parts of it [last year] a good year. I mean getting a new management in, 18 lads left from the previous season, every team is going to find it tough when they’ve 10, 15 new lads in their first season on board.

“There’s a bit of weight put on the lads that are there for the years before. It’s tough for the young lads coming in and they’re getting to understand what an intercounty set-up is like. This year, I definitely think lads are far more settled with regards to knowing their role and knowing how the team operates, knowing what’s expected. We’ll see now in the next few weeks.”

At 26, O’Sullivan is also considered one of Dublin’s more settled players, the St Brigid’s forward leading their scoring throughout the league, although he did miss out on four championship seasons, having come into the senior team in 2017, a year after winning the Leinster minor hurling title with Dublin.

“Yeah, a while ago now,” he says. “I got the call in when it was Ger Cunningham’s last year. It was a big change compared to growing up playing with lads your own age and all of a sudden you are in the same dressingroom as Liam Rushe and Gary Maguire.

“Never mind the amount of experience they had but just the sheer size of the lads when you are 18-years-old going in there with lads who are in there for 10 or 12 years.

“It was a tough year, that year, for Dublin hurling to be fair. But I think it gave me the standing to go forward and to be the player I am today. I definitely look back fondly on that year.

“And I might be a different player if I hadn’t taken some time off the Dublin set-up. Years where I went and did a J1, years where I just wanted to take time off.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics