Formidable reigning champions Galway stand between Dublin and their goal

Anthony Daly’s men must produce a big performance to end a 52-year wait for Leinster glory

The Dublin hurlers must feel like Odysseus after finally returning home from the Trojan War only to find a gaggle of uninvited suitors dawdling in his empty swimming pool.

Both Wexford and Kilkenny required a second battle before Anthony Daly’s men emerged victorious. Those victories alone should be enough to end a 52-year wait for a Leinster title. It should be theirs by now. But it’s not. Not by a long shot.

Now, do they posses the concentrated rage to rout these intruders? Not even Daly and his crazed Banner men had to work so hard for a Munster title in the hedonistic 1990s.

Galway, the unpredictable hurlers from the west, sit on the throne having grasped hold of the Bob O’Keeffe Cup in stunning fashion 12 months ago.


They devoured Kilkenny that day in what was the first sign that the greatest team in modern times were approaching their natural end.

Dublin have done all the necessary work to fill the void. They have certainly earned the right to transfer underage success onto the senior stage.

However, Galway are the reason Dublin captain Johnny McCaffrey didn’t lift a national trophy at minor or under-21.

Portumna's very own Cú Chulainn denied him in 2007. Joe Canning is central to everything tomorrow.

Combined total
In 2011 the latest Galway hurling wave (an apt description as the flow of talent is relentless) crushed Dublin's underage revolution, beating them by a combined total of 19 points in the minor and under-21 All-Ireland finals.

Of course, Dublin’s desire to become a sustainable force will always be met by traditional resistance. Daly knows this only too well.

From 1994 until 1998 Kilkenny were dormant. Laid low. Licking their wounds. Clare grabbed two All-Irelands with Dublin’s current manager as their captain.

Kilkenny came back to haunt him as Clare manager in 2002 and again as Dublin manager in 2012.

Last week, down in Portlaoise, he cut a serene figure as Kilkenny were outhurled. He even acted as peacemaker when opposing selectors collided after Mick Dempsey took umbrage with Ciarán Hetherton dragging Eoin Larkin off a prone Dub.

Cody loomed like an ancient warlord, but Daly quickly raised a palm in a sign of peace, doing his best Nidge (Love/Hate) impression, as if to say, "Sorry Brian, he hasn't been here before, I'll talk to him".

So he knows about the small steps needed before a big leap. Surely by now he feels that Dublin hurling, under his watch, has paid its dues.

"We'll stick to our guns now, and we'll try and get a big performance out on Sunday," said Daly. "It's going to be very difficult, fifth week in a row, but in fairness to Ross Dunphy, he has the boys in fantastic shape.

"Richie (Stakelum) is great, Shane Martin has been a breath of fresh air, Hedgo needs the odd Valium here and there on the sideline but he's a great man."

Daly also knows about Galway and how words like "form" or "logic" never shine an adequate light on them. They coruscated at this very moment last year. The points rained down but they out- worked and outmuscled Kilkenny in much the same manner that Conal Keaney and Danny Sutcliffe did last Saturday night.

The Dublin wing forwards must repeat that trick. McCaffrey must keep on cleaning up. More is needed from Ryan O'Dwyer at centre forward, and the sliotar must stick to Paul Ryan and David "Dotsy" O'Callaghan.

Most importantly of all, Ryan must nail the placed balls because we know Canning will. The Ballyboden corner forward left 0-6 behind him in O’Moore Park.

Galway have been waiting patiently for Dublin’s epic journey to bring them home, and into their welcoming arms. The silverware is in view but a maroon wave must first be surfed.

“They’ve had a couple of weeks looking at us and trying to get their game plan right,” said Keaney.

"Anthony Cunningham is no slouch and knows all about Dublin hurling, where we are and where we were."

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent