FEBRUARY being February and with little else to be basing it on, you could take Dublin’s attitude towards the Walsh Cup to be indicative of their newfound ruthlessness to win every game.
Winning becomes a habit. And with Dublin facing a much more diluted spring in terms of opposition quality given their new status as Division 1B’s big fish in a small pond, there is plenty of scope for continuing that particular habit right through until the summer.
So just like two years ago, when they took out Galway and Kilkenny en route to Walsh Cup success and then, amazingly, winning the League – Anthony Daly appears to be closely following the same loose template.
It’s not rocket-science stuff. But when you consider how meekly they bowed out of this competition last year and the malaise which later inflicted the group, it’s sure better than a kick in the behind, a sensation felt repeatedly and quite often painfully by Dublin last year.
And Daly will be at pains to sweep away the last lingering rubble of 2012 as quickly as possible this year, but will be acutely aware that only really promotion and a good showing in the league semi-final will result in instant erosion of such memories.
Duly, Daly has resisted the urge for wholesale experimentation. He has a raft of players out of last year’s minor team but none played in their win against Galway in Parnell Park last weekend, suggesting results rather than experimentation, are his immediate priority.
It was the sort of ding-dong battle closely associated both with winter hurling and Dublin/Galway matches of recent vintage and once a match takes on that dynamic – regardless of relevance – you’re endlessly better off winning it than losing it and so Paul Ryan’s late accuracy from frees will have come as a welcome fillip for Daly. Ditto the Johnny McCaffrey-to-centre-forward experiment, which is about as wild as Daly has been with regard to positional readjustment so far this year.
He started with a couple of points and ploughed through a mountain of work and served as a refreshing counterpoint to the utter class of Danny Sutcliffe alongside.
The St Jude’s man – Dublin’s find of 2012 – is flourishing further this year and should kick on to have another big impact this season. Doubtless, Daly could do with having the likes of Liam Rushe, Conor McCormack, Oisín Gough and, in particular, David Treacy available, all of whom are Fitzgibbon tied but no harm to be giving gametime to those likely to contribute in the league.
And we say ‘in particular’, about Treacy because all noises about his early season form have been positive, illustrated by his haul of 1-3 midweek for DIT in their surprise win over UL.
Wexford, meanwhile, have been scoring for fun all year.
DIT (1-29), Offaly (1-24) and a third string Kilkenny (2-18) have all felt the full force of their Walsh Cup prolificacy and that should pose plenty of tough questions of a Dublin defence not a million miles away from what they might field in their league opener.
Teenager Gary Moore, who scored a dozen points in the first two matches, finished with 1-5 to his name against Kilkenny and is undoubtedly a player Liam Dunne rates highly and should feature prominently again tomorrow.
Dublin face a trip to Bellefield on March 24 in the penultimate round of Division 1B, a voyage which will likely have far more riding on it than tomorrow’s, but forewarned is forearmed and they should use the experience to their advantage.
They would also, undoubtedly, like to come away from tomorrow with a win and some momentum, most likely even more than the silverware on offer but they’ll take that too if they can.
They should, but only just.
BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Wexford 13/8, Draw 10/1, Dublin 1/2 VERDICT: Dublin