The Dublin hurling camp is “totally disgusted” at being forced to play Tipperary in their own backyard this Saturday.
Dublin County Board officials claim to have been informed by Croke Park prior to yesterday morning’s second round hurling qualifier draw that both games would be played at neutral venues, only to be notified later in the afternoon that their clash with Tipperary was being staged at Semple Stadium as a curtain-raiser to the meeting of Kilkenny and Waterford.
No county has received home advantage in the final round of hurling qualifiers since Antrim traveled to Croke Park for their meeting with Dublin in 2010.
Tipperary also went through the backdoor that summer, with their phase three qualifier against Offaly played at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Tipperary and Offaly again clashed at this particular juncture in 2014, with a neutral venue — O’Moore Park — chosen.
Dublin chairman Sean Shanley, upon hearing yesterday’s draw, expected the game with Tipperary to be scheduled for O’Moore Park or Nowlan Park, expressing deep frustration that they are instead being made travel to the home of the All-Ireland champions.
Shanley said no coin toss had taken place prior to Semple Stadium being confirmed by the CCC.
It was a case, he insisted, of Dublin being told where to go by top-brass.
“We’re totally disgusted,” fumed Shanley.
“We were told in advance of the draw that it would be a neutral venue so we’re very disappointed Tipperary have been given home advantage and that we have to travel to Thurles. The Dublin hurlers have played in Thurles on many occasions and like playing there, but not when it is supposed to be a neutral venue and our opposition are Tipperary. This is giving a huge advantage to Tipperary.
“If Kilkenny had drawn Tipperary, they wouldn’t be made travel to Semple Stadium. It wouldn’t happen. They tell you they want Dublin hurling to make the breakthrough and then they go and do this. It is nothing more than lip service. This decision tells you what they really think of Dublin hurling.”
The second round of hurling qualifiers have been packaged as a double-header at Thurles for the past two years and the GAA obviously feel that is working well.
“But why not bring the double-header to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick,” Shanley argued. “That venue has the capacity to stage both games. We just feel this is unfair to the Dublin hurlers. We’ve made our feelings known, but it is unlikely that will change anything.”
Cian O’Callaghan, meanwhile, has acknowledged Dublin will require their greatest performance in several years to knock Tipperary out of the championship.
Ger Cunningham’s charges beat Laois convincingly last weekend in the opening round, though their season has been a difficult one with relegation from Division 1B of the league followed by a 2-28 to 1-17 thumping from Galway in the Leinster championship.
“We weren’t even close to being good enough for Galway at the time,” said O’Callaghan. “Although Galway have gone on and done well, winning the Leinster championship at the weekend, it’s no consolation to us. We have to get up to a level we haven’t been at this year, and probably haven’t been at in two or three years, to really have a crack at Tipperary.”
The All-Ireland winning Cuala club man is confident Dublin can turn things around and reach those high levels.
“Absolutely, there is no bigger challenge than playing Tipperary,” he said. “When you are a young lad, the dream is to play the All-Ireland champions. The dream is still to play those big matches and there are a lot of lads in the Dublin camp who have that same attitude and that same mindset.
“They want to see, one-on-one, are you better than the man you are marking? And as a unit, can you beat the best team in the country? Going into the draw, we knew it was going to be one of the three All-Ireland semi-finalists from last year that we got so it didn’t really matter which one it was. Obviously, it’s the All-Ireland winners from last year and it’s going to be huge and a major challenge. We are looking forward to it.
“It was good to get the win over Laois, generate a bit of momentum, but you want to challenge yourself against the best teams and Tipp are the best team.”
O’Callaghan claimed that all of the expectation will be on the shoulders of their hosts whose All-Ireland title defence has gotten off to a shaky start.
“All the pressure is on them. There’s no pressure on us because nobody gives us a chance.”
Waterford and Kilkenny, a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 All-Ireland semi-final, throws in at 7pm, with the Déise sweating on the fitness of Kevin Moran after he picked up an ankle injury midway through the second-half of Saturday’s 1-35 to 0-14 thumping of Offaly.
“It’s significant enough,” said Waterford manager Derek McGrath after the game. “We’ll know more when the swelling eases.”
Stephen Bennett returns to the fold having missed the Offaly fixture through suspension.
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