Hurling & Camogie

Dublin’s only focus is on Leinster Championship clash with Antrim

Selector Francis Forde knows to take nothing for granted in what is proving an unpredictable series in 2024

Antrim V Dublin hurling at Corrigan Park
Dublin took the points away from Corrigan Park in the League clash with Antrim earlier this year (Mal McCann)

AS a proud son of Galway, you’d imagine that Dublin selector Francis Forde might be eyeing May 26 with a ring around that date on his calendar.

Dublin will travel to play Galway that weekend and seeing as it is the last of their Leinster group games, it could be a crucial fixture too.

Results so far in Leinster have been much too unpredictable to be looking that far forward though.

As things stand, Kilkenny, Dublin and Galway are all locked together on three points. Antrim are a point back, thanks to their remarkable win over Wexford, six days after losing to Kilkenny by 32 points.

Dublin will host Antrim on Saturday at Parnell Park and Forde isn’t being coy when he insists that he couldn’t possibly look beyond this one.

“Being perfectly honest, the Galway game hasn’t even come into my calculations because I think, for all of us, the Antrim result over Wexford was a real one to make everyone sit up and take notice,” said Forde. “Particularly ourselves. We know that Antrim will come down and have no fear of Dublin.

“We know they will one hundred percent expect to get a result in Parnell Park. And being honest, if Antrim do get a result in Parnell Park, then game five with Galway will seem a long, long way away. It’s all about this week. I know that seems a bit of a cliche but this is taking all our focus.”

Forde is a trusted ally of Dublin manager Micheal Donoghue. Together they guided Galway to their last All-Ireland title in 2017. His sense is that this year’s topsy turvy Championship campaign could be all about rolling with the punches.

“Galway going into last week were in a pretty decent position,” he said. “They got a draw at home against Kilkenny. Everyone said that was a rehearsal for the Leinster final. A week later, Galway go down to Wexford Park (and lose) and now they have a bit to do to get back to the level we’ve seen from them in the last few years. So that’s what this Championship is like.”

Antrim’s schizophrenic form across their first two games has added to the chaos.

“I think they’ll bring huge energy, huge confidence this weekend,” said Forde. “Apart from taking the two points against Wexford, that was just a huge boost for Antrim hurling. We know that they’re going to bring massive momentum as a result. And they obviously have some excellent players.

“James McNaughton was exceptional against Wexford. His direct running style is going to be really difficult to deal with. We need to just focus on ourselves and we need to make sure the structure of the team is as we want it and that we have a good defensive shape and so on, try to curtail them as best we can. And when we’re on the ball, we want to get our game plan in motion. All of that really has to be from the first whistle on Saturday.”