Rushe keen to focus on mental strength
HURLING NEWS: DUBLIN HURLING takes another small step into the new season with Saturday’s Walsh Cup semi-final against Galway, and another giant leap away from last season, which ended with the shattering defeat to Antrim. Truth is 2011 couldn’t have come around any quicker.
There was no doubting the qualifier defeat to Antrim last July – by a point, despite Dublin leading by six points going into the last quarter – was difficult to fathom, especially for manager Anthony Daly. Not surprisingly Daly took some time out before committing for another year, and according to Dublin forward Liam Rushe, that decision could have gone either way.
“There were a few fears alright, that he wouldn’t come back,” says Rushe. “Especially since he disappeared for about two weeks, and didn’t pick up his phone. But he arrived back then for the under-21s, and we drove on. We’d a poor enough performance against Galway (in All-Ireland semi-final) but he intimated then really that he was going to stay on.
“So we couldn’t wait, really, for the new season. Especially with the few new additions, like Ryan O’Dwyer, and Conal Keaney, who we’ve been hounding for a few years. So we’re all really looking forward to it now.
“Keaney’s going well. You saw him against Antrim last Sunday. Shane Ryan has hit a bit of form as well. It was always going to take him more than just a year to get back to where he was, and you can see now he really is getting back – he got three points there from play. David O’Callaghan is flying too. And then there are still the few lads away with the colleges.”
Rushe is actually one of those, as his immediate commitments are with UCD in the Fitzgibbon Cup – starting with this afternoon’s first round-robin game against Waterford IT. How soon he returns to the Dublin team will depend on how long UCD stay in the Fitzgibbon.
“Waterford IT were in the final last year,” he says. “We haven’t been in the final in six years. It’s down there as well, to make it worse. LIT are in the group as well. But to win it we’ll have to beat the best anyway. We’ve some good lads though like Noel McGrath. So we’re concentrating on ourselves.”
Looking back on last summer, and particularly the Antrim game, Rushe doesn’t deny Dublin still need to nurture greater mental strength to go with whatever hurling strengths they now boast: “I suppose really the importance of the mental aspect in any sport was the one lesson from last year. We went out having beaten Clare the week before, but really we have to build ourselves up for every game, not underestimate anyone.
“It was a shocker, that match. It looked like we were cruising. The match was sealed, and then it blew up in our face. The main thing is concentration. See it through. That’s what winners do. You’ve seen Kilkenny do that now many years now. Not just see the win, finish it off.”
The return of such an experienced player as Keaney – at least football wise – will certainly help Dublin’s cause: “It will make us stronger. That’s what we have needed for how many years. Dublin isn’t exactly exploding with big, quick forwards. We’ve plenty of big lads in the backs. But now we’ve a few lads that are big enough, strong enough, ideal half-forwards or full-forwards. And it will make us much stronger.
“But this season league preparations and everything else is geared towards championship. It looks like we won’t get a game in Croke Park unless we get to the Leinster final. We would like to play here before that and this league schedule gives us an ideal chance.
“We are getting experience. We have had two serious disappointments these last two years – we lost to Limerick and we lost to Antrim. They are the losses that will make or break you. For the players we have now it is time to step up and do something. The building period is nearly over.”