Saturday February 20 2010
AFTER these teams met last year, Davy Fitzgerald wasted no time in informing just about anyone who would listen that the reason for his side’s apparent apathy in Parnell Park was the Waterford squad’s night out in the O2 the previous evening for Bernard Dunne’s world title triumph.
Which was fair enough, but it took some of the sparkle from a battling win for the Dubs and looked like a wee bit of gamesmanship from the former Clare custodian. And if Fitzgerald wants a ready-made excuse for a possible repeat at home tomorrow, he’s got exactly 10 of them.
Eoin Kelly and Eoin McGrath are out through suspension incurred during the Waterford Crystal Cup, Shane O’Sullivan (hip) and Shane Casey (hamstring) miss out through injury, while Tony Browne, Ken McGrath, Dan Shanahan, Eoin Murphy, John Mullane and Seamus Prendergast have been granted an early season leave of absence.
Maurice Shanahan is, however, a chip off the old block and hit 11 points (seven frees) in a challenge match against Cork at the weekend and, in the absence of Waterford’s most notable score-takers, he’s certainly the one to keep a close eye on.
Still, that’s a hefty load of Déise talent out and a chance, perhaps, for Dublin to start this year’s league campaign — like last year’s — with an away win.
Luckily for Anthony Daly, his absentee list is neither as lengthy or illustrious and duly he has named perhaps the strongest starting 15 of his reign thus far for tomorrow’s clash.
Only David O’Callaghan — named on the bench but struggling with a knock — is missing through any reason other than form and, given our relatively early spot in the calendar, it’s a smart position in which Daly has found himself.
Still, the listless defeat by Galway in Parnell Park will likely have sent sirens off in his hurling brain, despite the encouraging win over Wexford in Gorey the previous week.
Dublin were cleaned out through the middle and his decision to drop eight players from that starting team is as much to do with some individual performances as the return of a host of third level players.
Their superior sharpness is likely to be in evidence tomorrow, but it must be noted that before this week none had taken part in a squad session since early January.
On Tuesday, DIT beat UCD to reach the knockout stages of the Fitzgibbon Cup and there were strong performances from Liam Rushe, Tomás Brady and substitute David Treacy — three men with important roles for their county tomorrow, too.
Notably, Ronan Fallon is back for Dublin. The St Vincent’s man played just one full match last year — the victory over Waterford — before the dreaded metatarsal injury blighted his already late-starting year. But, judging on his form so far in the Walsh Cup (last Sunday besides), he’s back to his best or at least very close to it.
From a defensive viewpoint, the return of Brady and Óisín Gough in tandem with Niall Corcoran reunites the very sticky full-back line of last year, while Maurice O’Brien’s excellent early season form has rightly been rewarded with a starting place.
Rushe, Treacy and Alan McCrabbe will be expected to lead the scoring and, if there is a sharpness and an immediate click from the Dublin inside-forward line, it has the potential to pillage an inexperienced Waterford rearguard for big scores.
Perhaps inevitably, Shane Ryan starts on the bench as he continues his acclimatisation to the small ball but, if he gets his touch back, he could yet have something to offer from reserve in the early parts of the league.
Last year Dublin started the season with a win against a horribly understrength Cork team in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but the performance was roundly slated by their manager.
A win of any sort is more important tomorrow for Daly and, given the unfamiliarity of the Waterford teamsheet, we reckon he’ll get another one up on his old Clare team-mate.
ODDS: Waterford 4/6, Draw 10/1, Dublin 11/8
– Conor McKeon