ANTHONY DALY is maintaining a positive outlook this week, even if he admits that the expected absences of Liam Rushe, Danny Sutcliffe, Gary Maguire and David Treacy will dilute Dublin’s strength on Saturday in what has the makings of a hugely awkward Leinster opener in Wexford Park.
“It’s four of last year’s team so it’s a big blow,” he told the Herald. “But I think the panel has evolved a bit too. We have (Alan) McCrabbe and Colm Cronin and Mark Schutte now as well. In that sense, we’ve evolved a nice bit up front. And I think we’re in a good place mentally.”
Still, Daly’s absences count for exactly half of Dublin’s total All Star tally.
Bad luck to be missing four players for the start of summer after a fairly injury-free spring. Far worse to be without these particular four.
Sutcliffe, who Ryan O’Dwyer last week labeled “the best hurler in Ireland,” was in typically dynamic form during the League, scoring two goals in the relegation final victory over Waterford in Walsh Park and memorably scoring 1-5 against Kilkenny in Parnell Park. He is now definitely ruled out of Saturday’s repeat of last summer’s Leinster quarter-final, a game the teams drew.
Compounding Sutcliffe’s and indeed Daly’s misfortune is the fact that he is likely to now miss either a Leinster final against Kilkenny or Galway on July 6 or a qualifier the previous day, depending on the results on Saturday.
The metacarpal injury he suffered playing for St Jude’s last month failed to heal properly and further surgery was required last Friday.
“Realistically, he would be unavailable up until the end of this month and maybe the start of next month,” Daly explained. “We just have to wait until the plaster comes off.”
Rushe picked up a hamstring injury almost three weeks ago and didn’t take part in either of the practice matches Dublin played at a recent training camp in Portugal or last Sunday in Parnell Park.
“We’ll make a call on it on Thursday night but it’s difficult to know just now,” his manager outlined.
Maguire – an All Star in 2011 – suffered a broken thumb playing for Ballyboden St Enda’s against St Pat’s, Palmerstown and is scheduled to have a protective casing removed this week but Daly is satisfied that in Alan Nolan, he has strong, experienced back-up.
“That’s the good thing about it. Alan played in all the recent challenge matches. He played in a lot of the League matches last year when Gary was hurt. He played brilliant down in Thurles the night we beat Limerick in the League final.
“He’s been playing really well. Gary still has a chance but realistically, Alan has played in all the matches and Gary has very little done. He only resumed training in Portugal.”
Similarly, Daly won’t have David Treacy available for Wexford. Or at least, not from the start anyway.
The Cuala attacker has been nothing short of plagued with injury almost since he made the grade at senior in Daly’s first year as manager in 2009 and now – having put cruciate nightmare and hair-trigger hamstring trouble to bed – he is struggled with an injury to his quad muscle.
“He’s just been very unlucky,” Daly acknowledged. “I couldn’t but commend the guy for trying to get himself right at all times. They were talking about Michael Rice being unlucky….who has met more hardship than David Treacy over the years?
“But he could be fit to take his place in the 26 and be of some use to us in the game, whether that’s 15 or 20 minutes, it would be a big boost to us. He was very sharp against Clare there in Ennis. We were hoping he had turned a corner. But he just met another of these setbacks.
“He’s very strong of mind now because of it. He really is in a good place in his head and he’s hoping for a long season.”
For now, the above join ACL victim Simon Lambert on the sidelines, while Chris Crummy is also unavailable this weekend.
The Lucan defender was substituted during the Dublin Under 21s’ recent victory over Laois in Parnell Park and hasn’t recovered sufficiently to put himself into contention for this weekend.
The team did, however, come through the recent trip to Portugal unscathed and according to Daly “it couldn’t have gone any better.”
He will, however, be forced to tailor his selection in the absence of such key men.
Nolan will start in goals while in attack, Colm Cronin should make his Championship debut.
Alan McCrabbe is also back in the frame to play his first Championship match for Dublin since 2012, having sat out all of last year although Daly revealed Mark Schutte is “a definite starter,” in what would constitute his first start at senior level.
Rushe’s absence could prove more problematic, however.
A year ago, he started at wing-back in Wexford Park with Conal Keaney at centre-back but Rushe moved to number six thereafter and finished the year with his second All Star and, it appeared, a permanency as the central player in Dublin’s half-back line.
Joey Boland looks the most likely man to step into that position, although Stephen Hiney could also be reinstated to Daly’s starting alignment, with Michael Carton possibly moving to centre-back.
Cian O’Callaghan – who captains the Dublin Under 21s – is another who could be pushing hard to earn a debut in defence, although by and large, Daly has been consistent in his selections this year.
Of Wexford, who Dublin eventually beat by eight points in Parnell Park in a replay last year, Daly insisted: “we know what we’re up against.
“I was very impressed with them against Antrim in the quarter-final. They were very clinical in their hurling and desperately united.
“So we face into a cauldron. Whereas last year, we had beaten them by 14 points in the League and they hadn’t had a good League.
“This year, they’ve had a good League and gave Kilkenny a fair battle of it in the League quarter-final. So we’re under no illusions. Fellas are tuned in to what’s facing them,” he concluded.