Dublin hurler Johnny McCaffrey believes this summer’s Leinster championship is the most open in recent history and insists the current squad assembled under Ger Cunningham is stronger than Anthony Daly’s 2013 provincial-winning side.
Buoyed by the emergence of Mark Schutte, Chris Crummey and Niall McMorrow, the 27-year-old says the strength in depth of Cunningham’s squad leaves them well placed to deliver a second Leinster title in three years.
“I think we probably are [a better team than 2013],” he remarked.
“We have more strength in depth and the confidence would be quite high as well. We’d definitely like to think we’re better.
“We obviously took a step backwards last year. But we have had a good league campaign under our belts now and hopefully we’ll now kick on and have a good Leinster campaign too.
“A new manager coming in, trying out new players and getting to know everyone means a lot more lads have been exposed to the inter-county scene. And I think we’re in a better place now going into the championship knowing we can throw in any of the lads who’ve played in the league and trust them to do a job in the championship as well.”
He added: “Obviously we were very disappointed after the league semi-final defeat. To be 10 points up and not win the game is very disappointing.
“But when you look back over it after a couple of days, you try and pick the positives out of it. To hurl as well as we did in the first 50 minutes or so was pleasing.”
The departure of five high-profile personnel from the Kilkenny camp during the off-season has contributed to the All-Ireland champions drifting back towards the chasing group and McCaffrey identifies both Offaly and Wexford as strong contenders for the Bob O’Keeffe Cup. A two, even three-horse race is no longer the scene in Leinster.
“I think, definitely. Even Wexford last year had a very, very good campaign and you’d expect them to be strong again.
“Offaly have made good strides through the league this year too. So you’ve a lot of teams there who are confident enough that they can beat anyone on a given day.”
Galway provide the opposition in the Leinster quarter-final bout on May 31 and the midfielder says Dublin are desperate to avoid the quagmire of the first-round qualifiers.
“If it does happen, you have to deal with it, but you really want to be going through the front door. Your season is mapped out if you go through the front door and that makes things a lot easier. You know when games are going to be on and who you’re going to be playing. That puts all the more pressure on this first-round match. We have to prepare for a Galway team that will bring their best, which I think they will.”
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