DUBLIN will hope to qualify for their second successive Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Final when they encounter Clare in their last-four clash at Croke Park tomorrow afternoon.
The Dubs have improved immeasurably since their opening round defeat to Wexford three months ago and that rate of progression will need to continue against a battle-hardened Clare outfit that have an excellent recent pedigree at minor level. An All-Ireland Final appearance in 2010, following a semi-final win over Dublin, was almost replicated 12 months ago when they came within a whisker of defeating eventual champions Galway before succumbing after a replay.
Despite having few panellists remaining from those campaigns, there is sufficient ability within the Banner ranks to hurt Dublin, with Bobby Duggan’s tally of 3-42 over five games reflecting his influence in provincial wins over both Cork and Limerick.
Shane O’Donnell has also chipped in with four goals this summer and his threat will place added pressure on a Dublin defence that has yet to concede a goal in open play in their four championship games to date (one goal conceded was a free against Wexford in the Leinster final).
The intriguing midfield battle between Clare’s David Conroy and Alex Morey and Dublin’s Cormac Costello and Colm Cronin will have a huge bearing on who qualifies to face either Tipperary or Galway in the All-Ireland decider.
Cronin has given the Leinster champions added physicality and balance, allowing his centrefield partner to create numerous scoring opportunities with his unparalleled passing range.
Dublin’s advantage in terms of experience is significant, given the number of players that remain from 2011 and the determination to make up for the bitter disappointment of that final defeat to Galway last year could prove a huge motivational tool.
Dublin’s excellent defensive record has proved the bedrock for their progress to this stage and if that continues tomorrow, then Costello, Paul Winters and Oisín O’Rorke have the required ability to plunder a winning tally for Shay Boland’s men.
DUBLIN (MHC v Clare): C Mac Gabhann;
S Barrett, C O’Callaghan, E Lowndes; E
O’Donnell, R Murphy, S McClelland; C
Costello, C Cronin; C McHugh, S Treacy, C
Conway; O O’Rorke, C Boland, P Winters.
– Rnn Mac Lochlainn – Evening Herald