CONAL KEANEY’S motorcycle accident yesterday morning has cast a cloud over Dublin’s attempts to reach an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 1948. Keaney sustained a fractured ankle and tore his cruciate knee ligament when hit by a van. As a result, Anthony Daly will not announce a team until tomorrow.
This is it for Dublin. The league success will lose its lustre if they cannot beat the Division Two champions. Many of their Leinster final excuses are valid. They were always going to struggle without Ryan O’Dwyer’s ball-winning ability at half forward while the rejigging of the defence after Tomás Brady’s knee injury failed to contain the Shefflin-Power-Larkin onslaught.
Peter Kelly can expect increased protection from centre back now Joey Boland’s shoulder has healed while Liam Rushe should control in the middle third.
The defence must be airtight, and that means both corner backs denying their men a run on them, as the Limerick attack has the potential to score plenty of goals if Seán Tobin, Declan Hannon or Kevin Downes catch fire. The latter pair’s inexperience must be used against them just as Limerick exposed Dublin’s callowness two years ago. There is a concern about Hannon’s fitness while midfielder Donal O’Grady appeared to sustain a serious shoulder injury against Antrim on July 9th.
Keaney’s loss is incalculably damaging but the old fear of Dublin struggling against a traditional power in the hurling stronghold of Thurles can be banished if the team play to potential. However, it does afford Brian Geary more space at centre back as in 2009 he had to contend with the equally physical Ross O’Carroll. Still, anything but victory for Dublin will be seen by players and management as underachieving.
Daly should have enough tactical nous to counteract the wily old Cork hurling brain of Donal O’Grady. After that, it should come down to the players and Dublin remain a marginally superior outfit. Now they must prove it.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; D Moloney, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O’Mahoney (capt); D O’Grady, P Browne; N Moran, J Ryan, D Hannon; G Mulcahy, K Downes, S Tobin.
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).
In the last episode : A flawless Gavin O’Mahoney return from frees sees Limerick haul in Dublin’s six-point advantage in the corresponding fixture, also in Thurles, two years ago.
You bet : Dublin are favourites at 8/15 to Limerick’s 7/4. The Handicap has Dublin (-2) at 10/11 or Limerick (+2) at evens.
On your marks : The difference from 2009 should have been Keaney’s return, but Ryan O’Dwyer now must carry the ball-winning responsibility across the 40.
Gaining ground : Dublin people in Thurles on a big hurling day remains a rarity, but they will provide welcome colour.
Just the ticket : Covered stand seats at €30 are selling out fast. €20 for terrace, €5 tickets for juveniles.
Crystal gazing : If Dublin can get enough ball to Dotsy O’Callaghan and reproduce more of the Galway display than the Leinster final, the two-point handicap seems about right.
Gavin Cumiskey – Irish Times