Keaney: Our Championship starts here11/04/2012 - 15:38:52
It is win or bust for the Dublin hurlers in Sunday's Allianz Hurling League relegation play-off against Galway, and Conal Keaney has underlined the importance of the game.
Keaney, who is close to returning from a cruciate knee ligament injury, says it is vital that the Dubs play with Championship intensity as they bid to retain their Division 1A status.
"I cannot overestimate how important Sunday's match is and it is definitely our biggest game since last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary," he explained.
"In some ways, our Championship starts here as it is certain to have those same degrees of appetite and intensity that you would expect to find later in the summer.
"Both teams would rightly consider themselves in the top six within the country so for either side to fall out of Division 1A would be a huge blow, not just for this year's Championship but for the prolonged development of the teams."
Almost 12 months ago, Keaney was helping Dublin claim their first Division 1 title since 1939. But the current league campaign, blighted by injuries, has seen Anthony Daly's men suffer four defeats and a draw.
Galway, whom they face in Tullamore this weekend, beat them by 0-20 to 0-13 in the opening round of the league in Salthill back in February.
But Keaney says that game will have no relevance come throw-in time on Sunday and that he expects a much-improved showing from Dublin, who are just back from a four-day training camp in Portugal.
"We didn't play anywhere close to our abilities that day, so the chance to get away (for warm weather training) and prepare for Galway has been a huge boost for the panel and I would expect a marked improvement in our performance on Sunday," added the Ballyboden St. Enda's star.
"That depressing day in Salthill seems like a long time ago and I wouldn't attach any significance to it in terms of Sunday's game."
Keaney is expected to line out with Ballyboden in the upcoming Dublin Championship round robin games, scheduled to being between April 25 to 28. A run of club outings should put him in contention to play in Dublin's Leinster SHC opener against either Laois or Carlow on Saturday, June 2.
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