Offaly the fancies to get better of Dubs

DUBLIN’S Diarmuid Connolly will be hoping to add a second provincial medal to the senior football one he won last Sunday when he lines out with the county U-21 hurlers in tonight’s Erin Leinster final against Offaly in Parnell Park.

Team coach Sean Lane has been forced to make one change from the side which defeated Wexford in the semi-final. A groin injury has ruled wing back Conor Connolly out and he is replaced by Michael McGarry of Ballyboden St Endas.

John McCaffrey has not recovered from his groin injury while long-term injuries have ruled out Shane O’Rourke, Kevin O’Reilly and Willie Lowry.

Should the Dubs win, it will be a further indication that hurling in the capital is making progress.

For the first time in seven years, neither Kilkenny or Wexford are in the final. Offaly knocked out provincial and All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in the semi-final and there was no fluke about it.

People in the know feel that Kilkenny’s star is on the wane. Already this year they have lost out in all grades of hurling championship, with the exception of the senior side. St Kieran’s have also lost their dominance at colleges level.

In such circumstances the situation is ripe for both Offaly and Dublin to come to the forefront. The Faithful County have been struggling at senior level over the last couple of years, but through sheer hard work have put together a very good U-21 team that gives hope for the future.

Their senior All-Ireland successes of 1994 and 1998 were achieved as a result of successive U-21 victories in 1991 and 1992 and there is hope within the county that such results can be achieved again provided the U-21s can lay the foundation tonight.

Team coach is former senior stalwart Pádraig Horan and he has put together a very committed group of players, eight of whom have played senior this season.

Dublin have played two games to reach the final, against Kildare and Wexford. It was relatively easy against the Lilywhites, while the Model County gave them a far stiffer test.

Like tonight’s opponents, the Dubs will field a host of players with senior experience and it promises to be a great final between two teams hungry for success.

Offaly last won the title in 2000 when they beat Kilkenny 3-14 to 2-14 and, having dethroned the champions in this year’s semi-final, will be fancied to bridge that seven-year gap.

DUBLIN: P Curtin; R Drumgoole, P Callaghan, D Webster; K Dunne, T Brady, M McGarry; J Boland, A McCrabbe; E Moran, D Connolly, S Lehane; P Carton, D O’Dwyer, R O’Carroll.

OFFALY: M. Mulrooney; C. Hernon, P. Cleary, C. Coughlan; D. Kenny, B. Leonard, B. Watkins; S. Ryan, C. Mahon; D. Horan, D. Molloy, C. Slevin; S. Dooley, J. Bergin, A. Egan.

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