The cynics will point out that by talking up Dublin, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is cleverly taking all the pressure and focus off his team ahead of Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final at Croke Park.
[box]“They are as strong as any team in the country right now, and that might simply sound like I am saying it because we are playing them next Sunday, but that is nothing to do with at all.”
Cody has guided the Cats to five Allianz League titles during his tenure, while Dublin’s last League success came way back in 1939, so, naturally, the Dubs have hogged the headlines since they secured their place in the decider with an impressive win against Cork on Leeside.
Cody, though, has long been warning of Dublin’s impending arrival as a hurling force and now, it appears, their time has come. The Kilkenny boss has monitored their progress in recent years and is adamant that they can now consider themselves to be one of the strongest teams in the country.
“I have said it for the last three to four years that there is serious, serious potential in Dublin,” said Cody, who was speaking in Croke Park on Thursday.
“I could see it first with underage teams, Minors, college teams, U21s and even Féile teams going back along. You could see there was a group of players coming together.
“Obviously things happened to make them stronger this year, like Conal Keaney coming back and Ryan O’Dwyer coming to them as well. They have a huge number of very, very strong and experienced former Minor and U21s coming as well.
“They have been very comfortable playing with those teams and never feared playing Kilkenny, never feared playing other teams as well.
“They are as strong as any team in the country right now, and that might simply sound like I am saying it because we are playing them next Sunday, but that is nothing to do with at all.
“If you look at their team, physically they are very, very strong, they are a big team. They have huge pace right throughout the field, they have great skill and obviously great determination.
“It was a great joy for the whole county – maybe not numerically from the point of view of supporters coming out; I’m sure they will next Sunday – and all the hurling areas in Dublin. There is a huge drive there and there has been a huge amount of work done there for the past number of years.
“Obviously Anthony (Daly) has worked very hard with the whole set-up as well so a lot of things have come together to make them very, very strong.”
Cody has been impressed by the metal strength Dublin have shown this year, a characteristic that was clearly in evidence when the sides met in the Allianz League game at Croke Park.
Despite hitting a rash of wides, Dublin scored the last four points of the game to salvage a draw that ultimately proved crucial in their progress to Sunday’s final.
“Dublin’s progress has been blighted to an extent maybe by the fact that they have had one bad experience in a match every year where you could say they flopped if you like. That seems to have been eradicated completely and they have added a consistency to their game. That obviously comes from mental strength and a stronger panel as well. Whereas before they would have had difficulty coping with injuries to top players now they can play without some of their very, very good players and carry on.”
“They have been without Alan McCrabbe and David Treacy for a long time – they are excellent hurlers – and they carry on. They have a panel of 23 to 24 strong players and it’s showing in their performances.”