Malone says progress for Dublin is getting to ‘the business end of the championship’
A Dublin win over Wexford would provide a big boost ahead of their Leinster opener
Dublin hurler Jake Malone: “I think we’ve gotten a bit more consistent.” Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
It will be exactly two years on Tuesday since Dublin came from behind to beat Galway in a Leinster championship thriller at Parnell Park, their last win over a genuine hurling superpower.
A win over Wexford at the weekend then, whilst not meaning much in Allianz League Division 1B terms, would provide a significant boost ahead of their Leinster SHC opener with Antrim in just over a fortnight.
For the record, since beating Galway in that 2019 Leinster SHC round robin game at Parnell Park, Dublin have won five league or championship games, beating Laois (three times), Carlow and Antrim, and lost to Kilkenny (three times), Clare (twice), Wexford, Cork and Laois.
They led Clare by two points at half time in the league last weekend, but were overwhelmed in the final 25 minutes or so and lost by five, a frustratingly familiar feeling.
“We’re going into the championship and there’s nothing to lose now in terms of promotion or relegation in the league, or getting to a final, so the most important thing is getting that performance going into the championship,” said Dublin defender Jake Malone. “I’d want a win this weekend, Wexford will look at it the exact same.”
Dublin manager Mattie Kenny suggested after last Saturday’s defeat to Clare that the overall picture looks good for Dublin and “it is all panning out nicely for us at this stage”.
He was perhaps speaking in the context of handing game-time to 28 different players so far in four highly-competitive games, including Mark Schutte who featured for the first time in 2021 against Clare and scored a point. There is a settled look to the team too, with 14 players starting at least three of those four games.
The versatile Malone, twice an All-Ireland club title winner with Cuala under Kenny, said progress to him this season would be reaching a Leinster final and winning it. To do so Dublin would need to beat Antrim, Galway and probably Wexford or Kilkenny then.
“You want to be winning games, you want to be in the business end of the championship,” said Malone earlier this week at the launch of the Go Ahead Dublin GAA Club Leagues and Championships . “That’s always been where we want to be. And that’s where Mattie has always stated where Dublin hurling should be. So we want to be beating Antrim, we want to be getting to the [Leinster] semi-final and winning that too. We want to win all our games.
“But progress, to me, looks like a Leinster final. And a win. Beating teams. There’s been enough years when we’ve beaten a big team, like 2019 when we lost to Laois after beating Galway. A good result followed by a bad result. I think we’ve gotten a bit more consistent. So progress means winning games and being in the business end of the championship.”
Traditionalists may roll their eyes when they consider that Dublin put 2-23 on the board against Clare and still lost by five points. There were 59 scores in total in that game. The following afternoon in Salthill, Galway beat Waterford 4-28 to 3-23, 58 scores.
Malone, a scorer when Dublin registered 1-26 against Antrim and a sub for their 0-30 to 1-19 win over Laois, reckons the theme of high scoring will continue in the championship.
“I can see it going the same way in summer. I don’t see any reason why those scores won’t be hit again. Each team is putting up big scores, and I think it’s just down to higher skill levels.
“ If you look at lads these days, the athleticism required to play intercounty is massive, so that naturally gives off more strength too. I think it will definitely continue in that trend, and there will be more high scoring games throughout the summer.”