ALAN NOLAN is set to start in goal for Dublin in Saturday night’s crunch Allianz League Division 1B clash with Limerick in Croke Park as Anthony Daly rotates the number one jersey.
Regular stopper and 2011 All Star Gary Maguire has worn the jersey in Dublin’s opening two victories over Offaly and Antrim. But St Brigid’s ‘keeper Nolan will be given the nod for Saturday and will start a league match for the Dubs for the first time since last March’s 5-16 to 6-12 defeat to Kilkenny in Nowlan Park.
It will be Nolan’s second start this year after keeping a clean sheet against Wexford in the Walsh Cup final last month in Bellefield, Enniscorthy.
“We played him in the Walsh Cup final and he did very well and we wanted to give him a chance in a good league game,” Daly told the Herald. “It’s no reflection on Gary at all, it’s just a case of trying Alan out.
“It’s no different to what the (Dublin) footballers are doing with Cluxton and Supple or what Tipp are doing with Cummins and Gleeson. We need to know we have the right cover.”
Nolan, known for his huge puck-out, last enjoyed a sustained run in the Dublin team in 2009, Daly’s first year in charge after Maguire had spent the earlier part of that year travelling. Since then, the Ballyboden man has established himself firmly as Daly’s first choice and as one of the country’s top netminders, culminating in his All Star in 2011.
The only other major selection issue for Daly is the availability of Liam Rushe, who was substituted early in the second half of last Sunday’s win in Casement Park with a groin injury.
“He is a doubt,” confirmed Daly. “We did the right thing taking him off on Sunday. We probably shouldn’t have let him out for the second half at all. It was hurting him alright. He’s the doubtful one but hopefully he’ll be okay.”
In his absence, Conal Keaney moved to centre-back and attracted praise from his manager for an influential second-half performance but it is highly likely that he will start in the half-forward line against Limerick, even if Rushe is ruled out.
Maurice O’Brien, meanwhile, was taken to Beaumont Hospital by ambulance after training on Tuesday after suffering a neck injury in an accidental collision, but was given the all-clear after undergoing an X-ray and was released yesterday morning.
The Limerick native and former U21 All-Ireland winner with the Treaty County in 2001 and 2002 had only recently resumed full training after suffering an illness over the winter, though he is yet to make an appearance for Dublin this year.
Having beaten Antrim and Carlow by three points at home in their opening two rounds of the league, Daly reckons Limerick’s form has been “patchy”, but is expecting a much sharper team on Saturday.
“They’re a bit like ourselves,” he stressed. “It would be fair to say that their form has been patchy with the two results. Just looking at the scorelines, they probably wouldn’t be happy with those. We would expect that they have targeted this one. From talking to John Allen earlier in the year, we knew that they were looking forward to coming up to Croke Park for the league game under the lights.
“I’m expecting that we will be getting Limerick somewhere near their best. It will be a different game to either of the first two games, with due respect. The whole atmosphere of the day in Croke Park adds to it.
“It will be a faster game, a bit closer to championship pace. That’s what we’re hoping for and that’s we’re hoping to be able to compete against. We’re expecting them to raise their game. But we’re also expecting to raise our game ourselves.”
Limerick, meanwhile, will be without captain Donal O’Grady, who suffered a broken collarbone in the victory over Carlow and will now miss the remainder of their league.
“There was a clearance down the field and I caught the ball and hand-passed it to Paul Browne,” he explained. “I ran on to give him an option of a return pass but he hand-passed it back to me and the Carlow man lined me up beautifully. It was textbook.
“There’s talk of being out for six-to-eight weeks, for the rest of the league anyway. It’s the type of break that starts to knit again within three or four days. No surgery is required but I’ll be seeing an orthopaedic specialist on Friday, to make sure that it’s knitting fine. Then I’ll start on a programme at the weekend.”