Dublin aim to be better prepared
ALLIANZ LEAGUES: BEHIND ALL the fanfare of the Dublin Spring Series in Croke Park it’s easy to forget there are some pivotal games at stake – perhaps none more than Saturday evening’s first double-header. The reigning All-Ireland champions in both football and hurling are coming to town, and certainly not to see Jedward.
It means the Dublin footballers are afforded a rematch of last summer’s All-Ireland semi-final, when they were narrowly beaten by eventual champions Cork, while the Dublin hurlers are charged with setting the mood for the evening with a showdown against Tipperary – and at the same time make some amends for the hugely-disappointing performance the last time they played at Croke Park.
That, lest any Dublin supporter needs reminding, was when they threw away a six-point lead over Antrim in the closing 20 minutes of the All-Ireland qualifier, and lost by one. Manager Anthony Daly apparently thought long and hard about coming back for a third season after that, but if Sunday’s opening-round draw against Waterford is anything to go by, there’s a renewed determination about Dublin this year.
That of course will only take them so far; long-serving goalkeeper Gary Maguire says one of Dublin’s more enduring problems is concentration, and the ability to raise their game on a more consistent basis, not just against the so-called bigger teams.
“Last year we did lack a bit of consistency,” says Maguire “and lost a bit of focus. I don’t know what it was. It was probably something on the mental side. We maybe didn’t prepare for every game as we should have. This year we have it in our heads that we are going to prepare for every game. It doesn’t matter who it is, just every game prepare as best we can.
“So it will be great to be back in Croke Park, after last year against Antrim. We are out to prove that we are a bit better than that day, because we kind of took the foot off the gas. We probably had the game won and took it for granted so I suppose that we have to learn from that and it is great to get back here after that.
“I also think we were getting a bit carried away, talking about under-21 All-Irelands or whatever. So we probably lost a bit of focus on the job at hand. We might have been looking to the next game, but it is something that we have to learn from.”
Maguire identifies some other changes in Dublin hurling this year, namely in personnel. Although former Tipperary player Ryan O’Dwyer misses out this Saturday with a shoulder injury, most eyes will be on Conal Keaney, who has turned his attention back to hurling this year. As if on cue Keaney hit 0-10 against Waterford last Sunday, and that, admits Maguire, is the sort of natural ability Dublin hurling can ill afford to be without.
“He has the natural ability. He is a natural hurler, he has the skill. He is working hard at it. He knows that he is not there yet, that he has a fair bit to do. You have to be hurling every day, so he is no different. And he is probably a marked man now. But he was a big name in football and has a lot of experience to add to the set-up.
“Against Waterford on Sunday he showed that. We weren’t scoring for a while, and that was worry, because you’d be kind of thinking ‘same old Dublin’ or whatever but we showed great character to get the scores when we really needed them. That was a huge lift and we were kind of delighted to get a draw at the end.”
Public sale of tickets for Saturday’s double-header continues this week at the GAA ticket office, Dorset Street (9.30am to 5pm), also at www.tickets.ie/ www.gaa.ie/www.ticketmaster.ie. Tickets can also be ordered through Dublin clubs, with indications that 20,000 have already been pre-sold, with a crowd of 50,000 expected on Saturday.