McCaffrey: Home front for Dubs
Lucan midfielder hopes side can capitalise on Parnell Park factor
Friday March 19 2010
MAYBE it’s the fact that Kilkenny are engaging in a bit of on-field experimentation, without their partying Ballyhale brigade and carrying a few bad injuries to big players, or perhaps it’s because they’ve lost their last two games.
But the reality is that few observers would be totally surprised if Dublin beat them on Sunday, despite having been soundly accounted for by Offaly last weekend themselves.
True, Division 1 of the National Hurling League is utterly unpredictable and devoid of traceable formlines, and there’s some truth in the theory that Dublin no longer fear those wasp-like jerseys like they once did.
A two-point league defeat and a credible Leinster final performance against the Cats last year illustrated that, and, any way you care to look at it, a Dublin defeat of the imperious five in a row- chasing All-Ireland champions would hardly constitute a massive shock.
Maybe, though, just maybe, it’s the ‘P factor’. A bit like the X factor, that unknown star quality found in charismatic musicians and/or stylish corner forwards, the P factor has a strange and uncomfortable effect on hurling blue bloods.
They become disorientated and lose their way, forgetting to put the city boys back down in their lowly place in hurling’s pecking order.
Just ask Tipp.
The ‘P’ of course, stands for Parnell, as in the park where Dublin take on Kilkenny on Sunday (2.30), a venue which has become a tangible source of comfort for the Dubs in recent years. And, according to in-form midfielder John McCaffrey, it hasn’t happened by accident.
“One of our big goals when Anthony took over was to make Parnell into a bit of a fortress,” he told the Evening Herald.
“We have done that to a certain extent; we haven’t been beaten there too often over the last couple of years,” added the Lucan Sarsfield man.
Just once in three years of Division One league action, as a matter of fact.
“We like playing there,” the Lucan man continues. “The crowd gets behind us and we’re very familiar with the pitch. It does help us. We’ll definitely be hoping that’s to our advantage on Sunday.”
Sunday is either one of two things for Dublin: a nightmare fixture to compound and harvest the gloom of Tullamore last Sunday or an immediate chance to bury it. Typically, McCaffrey only sees the side of the argument that applies to ambitious teams.
“It’s great to have another game so close after losing,” he reckons. “You’d hate to have a couple weeks of a gap. We have got to get our heads around Kilkenny straight away.”
Quite why they didn’t get their heads around Offaly is something which Anthony Daly pondered publicly in the wake of the defeat. Perhaps, it was argued by some, Dublin now consider themselves to be occupying a higher hurling plane than the Faithful.
And that, after Tipperary, Joe Dooley’s men would pose no fears — a handy two points. Not a bit of it, according to McCaffrey.
“We’ve never really beaten them,” he states. “We’ve no great record against them. The past couple of years, they’ve beaten us nearly every time we played them in either the league or the championship. We were under no illusions. We knew they would be a tough team to beat. And that’s the way it transpired.
“But we prepared really well. We talked about it a lot that it was really important to get a win against Offaly but on the day we didn’t perform.”
McCaffrey isn’t quite ready yet to give up the ghost of an appearance in a league final but admits that a relegation scrap is their primary focus just now and, with Kilkenny and then Cork coming to Parnell Park, where better to be scrapping.
“We’ve only got two points from the first three games and we’ve got three massive games coming in the next three weeks (Kilkenny, Cork, Galway).We’d be confident that we can get a couple of wins between now and the end of the league, but there’s no bones about it: we’re in a dogfight at the moment. Our backs are against the wall,” McCaffrey says.
“We’re going to have to come out fighting.”
– Conor McKeon