Dublin vs Laois: Five questions facing Mattie Kenny as Dubs kick off their championship campaignOctober 23, 2020
Ahead of the Leinster Hurling Championship opener against Laois, we look at the main questions facing Mattie Kenny and Dublin.
Much is made of Dublin’s failure to build on the Anthony Daly era, and the fact that the small ball plays second fiddle in the county, with some of the county’s finest hurling talent opting for football.
Such analysis and throw-away comments will always irk the capital’s hurling fraternity, but the fact of the matter is those dismissals will continue until the Sky Blues deliver big results on a consistent basis.
After guiding Cuala to successive All-Ireland club titles, Kenny took over from Pat Gilroy in late 2018 with the job of competing for silverware once again.
But the Galway native’s first year at the helm was a case of one step forward, two steps back, with progression from the Leinster Championship offset by the shock loss to Laois.
As his second championship campaign at the helm dawns, what are the main questions Mattie Kenny is facing?
Can Dublin get the best from their forwards?
What sets the top Liam MacCarthy Cup contenders apart from Dublin right now is the availability of a top-class forward. Although strong at the back, the ‘Boys in Blue’ cannot call on a forward of the calibre of Seamus Callanan, Patrick Horgan or Aaron Gillane.
With the lack of such a star, Kenny needs to work with the tools at his disposal and get more from his main scorers.
Danny Sutcliffe has not quite hit his former heights since his return in 2018, although the St Jude’s man has shown flashes of the brilliance which won him an All-Star award seven years ago.
Eamonn Dillon’s explosive performances have often been inconsistent. When the St Finbarr’s man is on song, he is a handful for any defence, boasting blistering pace and an eye for goal. But when leaders were needed last year in Portlaoise, ‘Trollier’ was unable to deliver, despite bagging 3-3 across the previous two wins over Carlow and Galway.
Will they turn defence into attack?
Kenny will have been an interested spectator in recent weeks as Seán Moran and Chris Crummey starred in the forwards. Wearing 11 on his back, Crummey shot 0-5 from play in Lucan’s shock win over Kilmacud, while Moran scored 2-3 at corner-forward in the county final.
Recognised on an intercounty stage as half-backs, the duo also have much to offer going forward, and even chipped in with goals in last year’s championship against Wexford and Galway.
Kenny had previously trialled Crummey as a forward in the league against Carlow and Wexford, perhaps with a view to add more fire-power to the Dublin forward unit.
Questions remain: Will he continue with pushing Crummey forward? Have Moran’s showings warranted a positional switch? Or would such changes be a case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, leaving them open at the back?
Crummey embracing new forward role
Can they adapt to Croke Park?
Parnell Park has been a fortress for Dublin over the last decade, where they drew with Wexford and beat Galway in 2019. In the tight confines of the small Donnycarney pitch, the men from the capital have been able to suffocate their opponents.
But Croke Park has not always been the happiest of hunting grounds, as they struggle to adapt their game to a wider field. While the muscle of Liam Rushe, Conal Keaney, John Hetherton et al has been hugely effective in Parnell Park, they may need to inject more pace into the side.
All of this year’s Leinster Championship games will be held at HQ, so if they are to regain the Bob O’Keeffe Cup, they need to make themselves at home on Jones’ Road.
A fresh addition?
Donal Burke has not played for Dublin in the championship since the 2017 qualifier defeat to Tipperary. A cocktail of travel and injuries made him unavailable for the last two campaigns, but the young forward’s form suggests he has much to offer the Sky Blues.
Starring for Na Fianna in their run to the Dublin SHC semi-final, while also playing a key role in DCU’s Fitzgibbon Cup team in recent years, Burke has the ability to kick on at the highest level.
Dublin are looking for a spark in the forwards to match the top teams, and it’s something Burke has shown the potential to provide.
Can they deliver consistency?
A constant theme of Dublin hurling over the last 10 years has been the inability to string a number of big performances together. Antrim in 2010, Kilkenny in the 2011 and 2014 Leinster finals, and Laois in 2019 were just some of the teams to come up against inexplicably flat Dublin displays, after impressive form in the build-up.
Like Anthony Daly before him, Kenny was left perplexed after being dumped out of the championship last year.
“There’s an element of responsibility between the players and the management today,” he lamented in the game’s immediate aftermath at O’Moore Park, as roars of celebration came from the Laois dressing room nearby. “That was an unacceptable performance from our group. And we know that. The problem is, it’s too late now.”
They have waited 15 months for their next championship outing. However, should they gain revenge on Saturday evening in Croke Park, it won’t be a case of ‘mission completed’. But rather they will view it as the first step on their path back to the top table.
Watch Dublin vs Laois live from 5pm Saturday on Sky Sports Mix.
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