LIAM Rushe says Dublin will “relish” the opportunity to become the first team to beat Kilkenny in championship hurling for five years in Croke Park on Sunday week and reckons that the Cats lack of match practice could work in favour of Anthony Daly’s men when they lock horns on June 20.
Rushe, who bagged four points in a Man of the Match display on Sunday as Dublin laboured past Laois in their quarter-final fixture, knows from the experience of last summer that Dublin will be playing in front of “an empty Hill 16” but a second outing in Croke Park against Brian Cody’s all-conquering Cats in two years, following last June’s six-point Leinster final defeat, will, according to the St Pat’s man, drive him and his team-mates on.
“People were saying to us: ‘Hard luck, you got the tough side of the draw.’ But we’ll relish this chance,” said Rushe. “You know the old adage, that It’s very hard to beat Kilkenny in a final? So where better to meet them than in a semi-final, when they haven’t yet played a championship match?
“We look forward to playing at Croke Park. It will be before a near empty Hill 16, but Hill 16 nevertheless. Kilkenny are the challenge, with a team absolutely packed with stars. We’ll be major underdogs and rightly so, but we’re looking forward to it anyway.”
Rushe admitted that Dublin were “a bit flat” on Sunday as they put a nine point margin of victory on Niall Rigney’s men but put at least some of the blame down to early summer rust.
“We knew what to expect, we knew they had good hurlers, we knew they were going to play short balls, trying to copy Cork in a way,” said Rushe. “But it was first round, you had to shake all the cobwebs off.
“On the day we fell a bit flat, couldn’t get the ball in, weren’t up for it I suppose as much as we should have been. It’s hard to come into a game flying, you’re building for the next game,” he added.
Conor McKeon – Evening Herald