Daly expects ‘unmerciful challenge’ from Laois

The only foregone conclusion in championship hurling, says Dublin manager Anthony Daly, is that there is no foregone conclusion.

Dublin are expected to easily dismiss the challenge of Laois in the Leinster SHC tomorrow, a mere inconvenience before meeting Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final on June 24. Such talk, however, is anathema to Anthony.

“Look at Limerick and Tipperary last Sunday,” he said. “Limerick had no fear of Tipp whatsoever, they were the better team for 55 minutes and it looked like there was going to be only one winner.

“They had a right cut at them and it nearly paid off. It will be the same on Saturday. Counties like Laois have no fear of counties like Dublin. We’re seen as a legitimate target and rightly so.”

There’s the added fact that Laois are coming into the game on a high,having overcome their poor league form (relegated from division 1B) to beat high-flying Carlow.

“I was expecting them to beat Carlow, to be honest. I think the league got away from Laois a bit whereas it was the opposite with Carlow. They got a few early wins, got the confidence up and drove on from there.

“But that was a lower division. I expected Laois to rebound and in fact they could have won by more — at one stage in the first half the score was 11 points to four but it could easily have been 1-13 to 0-4, Laois were so dominant. The Carlow boys would tell you themselves, they never got out of the blocks.

“Laois are a big, strong, solid team, good half-back line of Conor Dunne, Matthew Whelan and Michael McEvoy. They’re very dependent on Willie Hyland up front, play everything through him and in fairness he’d make any team in the country.

“He’s their go-to guy, a great player to find space for such a big man. But they also have the likes of Neil Foyle,Tommy Fitzgerald, the wing-forward Stephen Maher — he got three points from play, fouled for two more. They looked good on the night and we’ve examined the video a few times since.

“Remember too, they beat us fair and square in the Walsh Cup [2-14 to 1-14, January 29], though we were a different team that night.”

There’s the rub though, Dublin are a different team now, three big players back from long-term injury.

“Martin Quilty is gone for the year, Paul Schutte is out as is Ross O’Carroll and of course Ryan O’Dwyer is suspended, a big loss. But Tomás [Brady], Stephen [Hiney] and Conal [Keaney] are all back in contention.

“Playing them will be a bit of a leap of faith.

“They’ve had club action, Stephen with three full games, Conal with two and a half, though Tomás unfortunately got sent off in his first game with Na Fianna and missed the next two.

“Credit to all three they’re in great physical shape but it’s still a huge step up, playing a championship match. We’re expecting an unmerciful challenge from Laois, we have to be savagely prepared ourselves, andhopefully come out with a victory.”

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