CLIONA FOLEY – 30 MARCH 2013
JUST how small the hurling world is has been confirmed by the opening and closing rounds of this year’s Allianz NHL Division 1B.
First day out, Dublin hurling boss Anthony Daly faced his old Clare team-mate Ollie Baker, who now manages Offaly. And tomorrow the opposing bainisteoir on the sideline in Parnell Park, like Daly, has an unusually intimate knowledge of a certain Kerry hurling club.
John Meyler – the Wexford native who took over the Carlow hurlers this year – managed Kilmoyley to four Kerry titles in a row between 2001 and 2004 and also twice managed the Kingdom’s hurlers.
When he left Kilmoyley his immediate replacement was the legendary Banner captain Daly, who spent his last two years at the club combining it with the Dublin job.
The duo now find themselves at contrasting ends of the 1B scale; Carlow haven’t won a game and even if they pulled off a massive shock against the Dubs, they would still be facing a relegation play-off.
Barring a bizarre turn of events and results, Daly’s Dubs should hold onto second spot and take on Limerick again to decide the division title.
More importantly, the winner of that will not only win promotion for 2013, but join the top three from 1A in this year’s Division 1 semi-finals.
This time last year the men from the capital were relegated from 1A after a two-game dog-fight with Galway. So, getting back into hurling’s premier league, and particularly getting at least two more ultra-competitive games at this stage of the season, would be vital to helping them return to the heights of 2011 after last year’s puzzling slump.
As expected, with qualification all but assured, Daly has made significant changes from the side who were so impressive against Wexford, but it’s not like he’s giving a bunch of rookies some game time. Experienced duo Stephen Hiney and Ryan O’Dwyer are back from injury to make their first league appearances this season and Conal Keaney, Alan Nolan, Oisin Gough, Niall McMorrow and Eamon Dillon also come into the team.
That means Dublin can rest players of the quality of Johnny McCaffrey, Peter Kelly, Joey Boland, Dotsy O’Callaghan and Danny Sutcliffe.
The return to top form of Conal Keaney has been a big bonus for the Dubs, but they’ve got to start scoring goals against quality opposition; their last championship goal in 2012 came in early June, 27 minutes into the Laois game, when David Treacy got their third. The three they scored against Wexford last week indicates that taking goal chances has been a priority for Daly.
Ryan O’Dwyer is just back after shoulder surgery and in Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin have a pair of jet heels capable of opening up defences and creating chances.
Daly has pointed out that sometimes, no matter how hard you practise, you have to depend on players’ natural instincts to crack defences. What he needs now, against the top teams, is for more of his forwards to rediscover their killer instinct.
DUBLIN (SH v Carlow) – A Nolan; R Trainor, P Schutte, O Gough; S Hiney, L Rushe, S Durkin; S Lambert, C Keaney; D Treacy, K Byrne, N McMorrow; C McCormack, R O’Dwyer, E Dillon.