Hurlers braced for tough Fitzgibbon tie

Since survival in Division 1 of the Higher Education league was clinched before Christmas, there has been a profound sense of positivity surrounding the DCU senior hurling team. Their triumph over St. Pat’s in November, which ensured said survival, was the first victory of the season. Not only that, but it was a result which put a halt to a period of hurling where DCU were being consistently trounced, match after match. It could only have brought confidence in heaps and buckets.

This buoyancy was shared by manager Paul O’Brien who, before the turn of the year, quietly expressed conviction at the prospect of qualifying from Group C of this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup. Preparations for this pursuit of the quarter-finals began over a fortnight ago, where DCU enjoyed a 10-point victory over Fingal in the Kehoe Cup; an ideal start to 2013.

However, a 20-point hammering at the hands of Wicklow one week later highlighted some New Year cobwebs and, with just a single second-half point, a lack of fitness that needed to be urgently addressed before the arrival of the far more serious matter of Fitzgibbon hurling.

DCU get their campaign underway tomorrow afternoon against the seeded UCD. Having already faced each other in this season’s league, the sides will need no introduction. The memories of that October afternoon in Belfield will likely come in a nightmarish guise for most DCU players though, with the South Dublin outfit sauntering to a 16-point victory on that occasion.

That being said, DCU might gain some hope from the fact that their opponents’ arrangements during January didn’t go to plan. After an impressive victory over Laois, their quarter-final clash of the Walsh Cup with Dublin was postponed, owing to unsuitable weather conditions. Due to UCD’s commitment to the hunt for a 31st Fitzgibbon title, the match could not be conveniently rescheduled and therefore the University was forced to forfeit what would have undoubtedly been an intense preparation match.

However, this is but a mild setback for DCU’s opponents as, realistically, anything but a victory for Nicky English’s charges tomorrow would be a major upset. Players such as Cillian Buckley, Walter Walsh and Noel McGrath are part of a squad being tipped by many to lift the century-old Cup in March, let alone acquire victory against ‘a football institution’.

Perhaps damage limitation is in order for O’Brien’s players tomorrow then, before the crucial trip to Limerick IT next Tuesday.

The meeting of Limerick IT and UCD ended with victory for the Dublin University on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-11 last Thursday, meaning victory against their City rivals tomorrow would ensure safe passage to knock-out stages.

Eoin Sheahan

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