Eoghan O’Donnell has claimed that the Dublin hurlers have gathered their strongest panel in years as they chase a Championship breakthrough.
Aside from Allianz League winners Limerick, Dublin may be the next big success story of the competition.
Under new boss Mattie Kenny, they beat Waterford and Tipperary to reach the semi-finals, coming up just three points short of Limerick at that stage.
The positive results are in stark contrast to 2018, when they only managed to beat Laois, Antrim, and Offaly in competitive games all year under Pat Gilroy.
With key forwards Conal Keaney and Mark Schutte yet to return after injuries, full-back O’Donnell is excited about what they can achieve in the Championship.
“It’s probably the strongest panel we’ve had in a long time,” said O’Donnell, who noted that two-time All-Star Liam Rushe is also due back from injury.
If Mark, Rushie, and Keaney come back, it only adds to the competition, which greatly increases the standard of training. If you look at the Dublin footballers, the reason they’re as competitive as they are is they’re all fighting for places in training.
Manager Kenny has brought in former All-Ireland winning footballer Dessie Farrell to help boost the team’s confidence and to develop a winning culture.
“Dessie has been great to have in,” said O’Donnell. “He has looked at culture and has been there in an advisory capacity for the lads. He’s instilled belief among us that we’re one of the teams that can compete going forward, which is great.
“Dessie has a lot of experience playing football himself and he managed the Dublin minors and U21s to All-Irelands, so it’s just having another advisory voice there.
“I don’t think you’d call him a sports psychologist. It’s a difficult thing to nail down — he’s there as a backroom member, as a selector to talk to lads.
I met him one-on-one for coffee and it’s great to have chats about hurling things, things you think are going well, just to bounce ideas off him really. He doesn’t have an official title as such, he’s just there to give lads a guiding hand.
O’Donnell said one of the things the players have worked hard on is forgetting about last year’s near-misses.
They turned in huge Championship performances against Kilkenny, Wexford and Galway in 2018, but came up agonisingly short on each occasion.
They’ve reversed that trend under Kenny by coming good late on to see off Waterford, Laois, and Tipp by tight margins this spring.
“I think the way we did it was we put a block on what happened last year, because if you’re in a tight game and you are thinking about previous games where you have come out on the wrong end of it, it can be damaging,” said the Whitehall Colmcille defender.
“So we have moved on from 2018 completely. It’s a brand new management, a lot of players have come back and there’s new players too.”
O’Donnell shook his head at the suggestion that it can’t be as easy as just forgetting that they came up short in tight games last summer.
“It sometimes is as easy as a psychological trick of just forgetting about the previous losses,” he maintained.
“There was I-don’t-know-how-many games in the Championship last year that were won by a point or two in the last few minutes, so that’s the way games are going, not just for Dublin.
“It’s about having that belief in the last few minutes that you are going to push on — that’s very important.
“Maybe saying it’s ‘easy’ is probably the wrong word, but I do think once you are aware of it and once you have 15 players focusing on the same thing, it can be quite powerful.
“So we know coming into the final stretch now that all the players are on the same page and it has been drilled into us that we come alive.
“That’s quite a powerful thing, that you are looking forward to the closeness of the thing rather than dreading it.”
Meanwhile, Tipperary captain Seamus Callanan says he has no concerns that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch will be in good shape for their Munster SHC showdown with Cork on May 12.
“I’m hopeful, I don’t know much about it but the pitch is going to be the pitch for both teams so we’ll just have to try to control the controllables and manage our own performances in training and build towards that,” said Callanan.
“That’s all we can really worry about.”