AFTER a great start to the league with impressive wins over Tipperary and Kilkenny, the Dublin senior hurlers were brought crashing back down to earth on Saturday night, when they suffered a drubbing at the hands of Cork at Croke Park.
An 11-point loss should see the Ger Cunningham-managed side come to Ennis on Saturday for their meeting with Clare determined to get back to winning ways and secure a place in the play-offs. Another defeat could see the Ger Cunningham-managed Dubs with relegation worries on their minds going into the final game of the group stage.
Davy Fitzgerald and his team will be hoping that the improvement shown in their game against Tipperary will continue and lead to a Clare win this weekend. Clare will have to win their remaining two games and hope that other results go in their favour if they are to have a chance of avoiding the dreaded relegation play-off.
It’s unlikely that all of these things will fall into place and the odds clearly point to Clare being in the relegation play-off in two weeks’ time.
Currently, the bottom two teams are Clare and Kilkenny, who meet in Nowlan Park on Sunday week. If they remain in the positions on the table they hold currently, they will play again a week later to decide who will drop to Division 1B for next season.
Relegation, while disappointing, wouldn’t be the end of the world. In the past it hasn’t prevented teams from doing well in the championship, as Cork showed just two years ago when they lost the relegation battle to Clare and later contested the All-Ireland final, which they lost, after a replay, to Clare.
The confidence that was so evident in Clare’s play throughout their march to the All-Ireland title in 2013 seems to be absent at present, as evidenced by their mistakes during the course of Sunday’s game against Tipperary.
The team is likely to be along similar lines to that which started last week. Bobby Duggan who, surprisingly, didn’t see any action at the weekend, is unlikely to be involved on Saturday ahead of his club’s (Clarecastle) U- 21A club championship quarter-final tie with Feakle-Killanena on Sunday. Colin Ryan is also unavailable for the game.
Seadna Morey and Aaron Cunningham, both of whom were introduced against Tipperary, will be pressing for a starting place.
Ger Cunningham and his Dublin backroom team will be looking for a big response following their heavy defeat.
In goalkeeper, Alan Nolan; defenders, Michael Carton, Paul and Mark Schutte, Peter Kelly and Conal Keaney, as well as Ryan O’Dwyer, Danny Sutcliffe, Liam Rushe, David Treacy and Paul Ryan, they have experienced players who have shown their skills over the past half dozen years.
Performances to date this season suggest that Dublin will bounce back to winning ways but I believe that if Clare show further improvement on last week’s performance, they can get their first win of this campaign.
LAST year’s league meeting was at Parnell Park and Dublin, then managed by Clare’s Anthony Daly, emerged with a two-goal win, 2-17 to 0-17.
The Dubs laid the foundation for that victory in the half-back line, where Shane Durkin, Liam Rushe and Michael Carton ruled. This season, Rushe has been switched to the attack, with Carton now filling the full-back slo.t
Both sides were guilty of missed chances but, overall, there was no disputing who was the better side on the day and Dublin were full value for their win.
The teams on that occasion were:
Dublin: Gary Maguire; Niall Corcoran, Peter Kelly, Simon Timlin; Shane Durkin, Liam Rushe, Michael Carton; Colm Cronin, Johnnie McCafferty; Conal Keaney, Ryan O’Dwyer, Danny Sutcliffe; David O’Callaghan, Mark Schutte, Alan McCrabbe.
Subs: Jack Dougan for Timlin, Eamonn Dillon for McCrabbe, David Treacy for O’Callaghan and Niall McMorrow for O’Dwyer.
Scorers: Alan McCrabbe (0-9, 8f, 1 sideline), Conal Keaney (1-3), Colm Cronin (1-1), Shane Durkin (0-2), Johnnie McCafferty and David O’Callaghan (0-1 each).
Clare: Donal Tuohy; Seadna Morey, David McInerney, Cian Dillon; Pat O’Connor, Conor Ryan, Brendan Bugler; Pat Donnellan, Shane Golden; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan; Conor McGrath, Shane O’Donnell, Colm Galvin.
Subs: Nicky O’Connell for Golden, Cathal O’Connell for Conor Ryan, Bobby Duggan for Colin Ryan and David Reidy for Morey.
Scorers: Colin Ryan (0-7f), John Conlon (0-3), Tony Kelly (0-2, 1f), Bobby Duggan (0-2f), Pat O’Connor, Conor McGrath and Cathal O’Connell (0-1 each).
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor