Irish capital dominates football but hurlers face fierce battle
Dublin’s ”Spring Season” campaign has been a great success both on and off the field as the city’s hurling and football representatives are both still in with a big shout of reaching their respective league finals as we enter the business end of the tournaments.
It has been pointed out that the hurlers have had a soft start in terms of their fixture list and that their elevated position in the table is owed to this. The obvious counter is that they held the Munster champions to a draw and managed to defeat the All Ireland champions. They were unfortunate, or perhaps naïve, to concede a late goal against Galway last weekend when a draw was within their grasp.
Dublin’s hurlers are learning week on week that you’ve got to take your chances when swinging ash at the top level. It’s a lesson that was brought home – again – to Waterford as they were tugging at the cats tails last weekend with a 20 metre free to level the game. Eoin Kelly failed to disturb the netting with his goal attempt and within moments his goalkeeper Stephen O’Keefe was fetching the sliotar from his own net in the shadow of a green flag and a six point deficit as Kilkenny covered the handicap spread.
It’s debatable how much a home advantage Dublin have against Kilkenny at Croke Park, I’d suggest its very slim as a Kilkenny hurler is seldom disorientated at the Jones Road venue. We’ve set the Cats a three point line to cover this weekend at odds of 5/6. They will of course be without the injured JJ Delaney, Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh, though Dublin too will feel the loss of some of their key men in Alan McCrabbe and Stephen Hiney.
My opinion is that this is another handicap line well within Kilkenny’s reach. The Cats are progressing game to game and will, I expect, see a trip to Croke Park as ideal preparation for the high stakes days they will face come high summer.
The second instalment of Saturday night’s double bill sees the 100% league record of Dublin’s footballers come under attack from a Down side which ran Monaghan ragged two weekends back. Down are blowing hot and cold while Dublin’s forwards are covering a multitude of sins back down the field with a relentless blaze of scoring.
The Dubs are very much the form team and it can reasonably speculated that much of Dublin’s training focus since the Mayo game will be geared around defending against goals. Cork’s management showed that when they focussed their training drills on scoring goals that their players responded by sticking three past Down. I think Dublin’s management too will succeed in their endeavours by keeping Down goalless (Down goals Under 0.5 11/8) and taking maximum points at odds of 4/9.