Dubliners set for hurling final
Dublin booked their place in the National Hurling League Division One final for the first time since 1946 thanks to a smash and grab win (1-15 to 1-14) away to Cork on Sunday. Anthony Daly’s side rewrote the history books when a narrow one-point victory over the Rebels was enough to book them a league final showdown with Kilkenny, probably in Semple Stadium, on Sunday, May 1.
Afterwards Daly told RTÉ Radio’s Sunday Sport, “I’m delighted. It has been such a long time since we qualified for it so I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled for the boys.
“We made heavy weather of it but Cork missed a fair bit in the first half too, so it was a funny game with a bit of tension in it.
“There has been great honesty from them all. It is a reward for hard work. It is early doors but we’re delighted to be this far.”
Dublin booked their final date after Galway were beaten by a Waterford side managed by Daly’s old Clare teammate Davy Fitzgerald.
The mighty Kilkenny are next, and Daly can’t wait for the chance to lock horns with Brian Cody’s side and bring Dublin hurling onto a new level.
He continued, “The Dublin people are thrilled because they have been so long out of it. We have to get organized very quickly for the final and come and play in the final.
“That is the key thing. It is about performance and performing all the time. We’ve got to perform in that final.
“We’re delighted to be in it, but being in it is one thing. I think I played in one league final with Clare and managed in another and we didn’t win them so it is no good getting in them unless you try and go to win it.
“We’re playing Kilkenny and they’ll have a few big names back, but it was fantastic for us to get Alan McCrabbe and Maurice O’Brien back out there against Cork.”
Paul Ryan scored 1-8 for Dublin in Cork with David O’Callaghan adding six points and Conal Keaney completing their tally.
“The two of them, Paul and David, are playing really well,” said Daly. “Maybe Conal was having an off day but other days in the league he has carried us on his back so they boys stepped up to the plate.
“There is a fierce honesty from all our lads and it should be good competition for places in the final. We’ll try to take the positives and be realistic about it.”
Wexford pulled off the near impossible when they drew with Tipperary in Semple Stadium on Sunday to maintain their Division One status in the NHL at Offaly’s expense.
Offaly had beaten Colm Bonnar’s side last month but a surprise Wexford win over Cork and Sunday’s point away to Tipp proved crucial.
“We’re delighted, we did what was required. It keeps us in Division One and that was our goal. We did it the hard way,” said Bonnar afterwards.
“We reminded them that at halftime against Cork we were five points down. There was still plenty of hurling to come.
“We feel we didn’t really open up and we left maybe three or four points behind while Tipp were clinical enough so we could have been a bit closer. That gave us hope for the second half. When they weren’t scoring goals, they were keeping us in the game.
“As the game went on, our lads wanted it more. They knew the prize was staying in Division One.
“All credit to the players -- they got a lot of criticism over the last three or four or five games. They stood up strong when the pressure was on us and with backs to the ball.
“After the Offaly result we were kind of written off but the players themselves turned it around. We’re delighted with the caliber of our lads, it is great. We’ll be so much better prepared for the Championship.”
Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald reckoned his players put down a marker for the Munster Championship games to come in Sunday’s 1-17 to 1-16 NHL win over Galway as they denied their visitors back to back league finals.
“We haven’t been beaten at home since March 2009 and I didn’t want that record to go today,” said Fitzgerald afterwards.
“We put a bit of pressure on ourselves not to let that go even though we were missing a number of lads. It’s a good result ahead of the summer.”
Galway boss John McIntyre saw his team’s hopes of retaining their league crown disappear in Waterford and admitted afterwards they have a lot of work to do ahead of the Leinster Championship campaign.
“We didn’t fall away today, we showed a lot of heart which wasn’t evident against Tipperary. But we have a mountain of work to do ahead of the Championship,” said McIntyre after a game that saw captain Shane Kavanagh, Damien Hayes, Joe Canning and Kevin Hynes all return.
“The four guys who came back in, we needed to get a big match into them before the Championship,” added McIntyre.
Cork boss Conor Counihan will have to plan without midfielder Aidan Walsh for Sunday’s NFL Division One final against Dublin at Croke Park.
Walsh picked up a hamstring injury as Cork lost the All-Ireland under-21 semi-final to Galway in Ennis on Saturday night.
Manager Counihan expects a big test from a rejuvenated Dublin in Sunday’s final. “It’s great to be back in a league final now, and it’s going to be a huge test against Dublin in Croke Park,” he said.
TIPPERARY midfielder Shane McGrath picked up a serious looking ankle injury during Sunday’s NHL draw with Wexford at Semple Stadium. McGrath joins Brendan Maher, Eoin Kelly, Seamus Callanan and Seamus Hennessy on the Tipp injury list ahead of the Munster Championship opener against Cork on May 29 . . .
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte was counting the cost of club games last weekend when Joe McMahon (broken jaw) and Enda McGinley (ankle) picked up serious injuries that could keep them out of championship action this summer . . .
MAYO manager James Horan has dropped Tom Parson, Aidan Kilcoyne, Mark Ronaldson, Barry Moran, Brian Benson and former captain Trevor Mortimer from his squad ahead of this summer’s Connacht Championship . . .
CAVAN’S Paul Brady set a new record when he won his eighth All-Ireland senior 40x20 handball singles title in Longford on Sunday with a win over Armagh’s Charly Shanks in the final . . .
DONEGAL forward Michael Murphy is a major doubt for Sunday’s NFL Division Two final against Laois after picking up an ankle injury in a club game last weekend . . .
DERRY’S Paddy Bradley is unlikely to play again this year after picking up a cruciate knee ligament injury on club duty last weekend.
GALWAY will play Cavan in the All-Ireland under-21 football final after semifinal wins over Cork and Wexford respectively . . .
LIAM O’Neill of Laois was confirmed as president-elect of the GAA at Congress in Mullingar on Friday night.