IT was a 21st birthday to remember for Dublin’s Liam Rushe at Tullamore on Saturday night
Rushe began the Leinster championship semi-final at midfield but was moved to centre back after first choice Peter Kelly went to the edge of the square following an early injury to Tomás Brady. Both proved inspirational calls with Kelly’s mastery of Joe Canning a major factor in the capital side’s win while Rushe’s supreme display in his new home just edging him out for the man of the match award.
“Am I finally a man now?” laughed birthday boy Rushe. “I enjoyed it out there, which is what Anthony (Daly) told us to do – that’s what we’re here for. We’re here because we love our hurling. We anticipated a massive battle and relished every minute of it. We weren’t wishing for the final whistle or anything, we kept going. Before, Dublin might have panicked, been dying for the final whistle, hitting balls aimlessly away, but we kept driving on.”
Rushe is no stranger to centre-back having played there in his underage career with St. Patrick’s in Palmerstown, nor is full-back a novelty for Peter having filled in for Brady when he was injured earlier in the season.
The nature of the victory, Dublin comfortably holding off an attempted Galway comeback despite having Ryan O’Dwyer red-carded in the 57th minute, showed the League champions have learned to win tight games.
Kelly said: “Yeah, that’s something we’ve worked on since last year, we’re putting in a performance right to the end. We wanted to iron out all the creases and this year we’ve shown that we’re good for 70 plus minutes.”
For manager Daly, however, those final minutes were a bit hectic. “We rode our luck for a finish, down to 14, then Dave Treacy went off injured and we’d already lost Tomás so we were a bit makeshift and patched up. Fair play to the fellas that were out there they showed great belief in themselves. They backed themselves and came out with balls when maybe they had no right to. They showed a new confidence – that was great to see.”
Kilkenny await in the Leinster final, a game the Cats will truly relish after an injury-hit side lost heavily to Dublin in the Allianz Hurling League decider.
Liam Rushe is only too aware of what awaits them: “The league and championship are two entirely different animals and Kilkenny are a different team now, as we saw against Wexford. They have a few legendary figures back so it’s going to be a different challenge.”
For Anthony Daly, and despite how well Rushe and Kelly played, it will be fingers crossed that the Tomás Brady injury isn’t as serious as feared, and that regular centre-back Joey Boland will also have recovered in time.
“With the help of God we’ll have him back, and we’re going to need him the way things are looking in there (injuries in the dressing-room).
And Kilkenny? “That’s it, ye’ll all be sending us to Medjugorje or somewhere thinking they’re going to kill us! We’re into the Leinster final now and so looking forward to that; we’ll treat it as a day in itself, meeting the greatest team that ever played – why wouldn’t you look forward to that, taking them on, nothing to lose?”
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, June 20, 2011