IT WOULD have to be said that the All-Ireland qualifiers – hurling and football – have failed to capture the imagination of the general GAA public.
And yet those same qualifiers can throw up some really attractive pairings. Take tomorrow’s hurling game between Dublin and Clare, for instance, part of a Croke Park double-header with the Dublin footballers also first out of the hat for their qualifier against Tipperary.
It’s a Leinster/Munster clash, but unlike the Tipperary romp against Wexford last weekend, this one has a bit of meat on it, and we’re not talking about the fact that Dublin are coached by Clare’s double All-Ireland winning captain, Anthony Daly, noteworthy as that may be.
There isn’t a whole lot between these two. Dublin, a coming team in Leinster for the past couple of years. Clare, powered on this year by several of the team that last year won the county its’ first All-Ireland U21 title. A good game in prospect, says Dublin captain Stephen Hiney.
“I don’t want to put down any other team here, but I must say we’re really looking forward to this,” he admitted.
“We had a challenge against them a while ago so we know a bit about each other, and there’s some nice rivalry there, what with Anthony Daly being with us. Should be an interesting game alright, in Croke Park especially.
“We got the home draw and with the footballers getting the same, it ended up being in Croker, and let’s face it – championship hurling in Croke Park, we couldn’t ask for any more.
“Looking at Clare’s performance against Waterford, I thought they played very well, really put it up to them. It was only in the last few minutes, after Waterford had brought on a few experienced subs, that they pulled ahead. But Clare looked good – very young, very driven, they showed a lot of heart and spirit that day.”
Not so different to Dublin themselves when they started making waves last year, powered on by several youngsters from their own reasonably successful underage teams of the past few years, the likes of Alan McCrabbe (All Star last year), Liam Rushe, David Treacy, all U21. Like the German youngsters in this World Cup, there’s a fearlessness in their play, and those Clare youngsters – four forwards U21 – are hurling without the shackles.
“That’s it exactly,” says Hiney, himself something of a veteran at 27, “and you can be certain they won’t fear us either, or Croke Park – maybe the way they’ll be looking at it, and especially after our performance against Kilkenny, they’ll be thinking they got the good draw!”
Ah yes, the Leinster semi-final, 4-19 to 0-12 – what a letdown for Dublin after so much progress in the last few years, but no point dwelling on that now. There is still a lot of hurling to be played before anyone qualifies for that September date.
“There is, and hopefully we’ll be there for a lot of it, starting on Saturday evening. We know it’s going to be tough, but we’ll be trying to bring to the game what we’re doing in training. Everything has been going really well but we didn’t bring that form to some of the games so far – hopefully we can do it (now).”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved