Conal Keaney, Dublin, takes the ball against Waterford. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
CONOR MCKEON – 28 MARCH 2014 03:30 PM
FOR Dublin the stats aren’t wonderful. In 18 away League matches under Anthony Daly, they’ve lost 11, drawn one and won six, a success rate of just 33pc.
Moreover, the six are divided between Wexford (twice), Offaly, Antrim and Cork (twice also) and even if the distinguished presence of the Rebels amongst the vanquished bodes well, it must be remembered that that first away win – Daly’s first League game as Dublin manager – came against a hotchpotch team of fourth and fifth-string hurlers on account of the strike which then embroiled the Rebel County.
So really, only Dublin’s one-point win over Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the final day of the 2011 League (a victory which ensured their place in the competition’s final) qualifies as an away success against one of hurling’s blue bloods.
And included within that stat are three losses and a draw on Waterford soil, the patch of land on which Daly’s team will endeavour to preserve their Division 1A status this Sunday afternoon (Walsh Park, 3.30).
Against that, Wateford are not – on all available evidence – in too nice a place just now themselves.
After two games – wins over Galway and Dublin – they sat atop Division 1A on scoring difference, but since have conceded a combined 9-40 and scored 0-34 against Kilkenny and Clare, teams beaten by Dublin this spring.
That Derek McGrath felt the need to intern his players for over an hour after their butchering in Walsh Park perhaps tells its own story.
Since then noises from within the Waterford camp have been silenced, although Déise legend Ken McGrath did feel suitably compelled after last Sunday’s result to tweet: “love to see waterford going back to tradition, striking the ball, moving it fast, off the cuff hurling, 6 forwards, this style hard t watch (sic).”
“I was down there and Dublin were really, really poor,” recalls former Dublin manager, Michael O’Grady, of the Dubs’ latest loss in Walsh Park.
“But since then, Dublin have played excellently, against Kilkenny and Tipperary, even if they didn’t take enough of their chances in Thurles.
“From defence to attack, they’ve been really good. And they will need to be again on Sunday to beat Waterford in Walsh Park, which is something of a fortress for them.”
The other pertinent question which hangs over Dublin on Sunday is whether relegation would constitute Armageddon.
Recent history suggests that perhaps the shock of dropping, rather than the landing, has prompted instability.
When Dublin were last relegated, the summer of 2012, all its gloom unfolded.
Yet after spending a spring knocking around in 1B last year, they subsequently beat Kilkenny, won Leinster and almost made an All-Ireland final.
“They’re bigger than that now,” insists O’Grady. “It would be a setback, but not necessarily a disaster. Yes, psychologically, it’s a burden to carry with them and they’d rather not be there (Division 1B).
“But I would be very optimistic. They have been very good under pressure this year, very composed. When Kilkenny got those two goals after half-time in Parnell Park, they kicked on and got scores at the other end and steadied it a bit.
“They’ve been excellent under pressure,” O’Grady adds, “and I think if they keep improving and take their chances, I would be very hopeful they won’t be relegated.”