Daly insists hunger is there as depleted Blues head for Laois
GOOD news and bad news for the Dublin hurlers. First, the bad.
Over a dozen of Anthony Daly's squad are unavailable for Sunday's trip into the unknown (or Rathdowney, as it's otherwise called) to take on Laois in the Walsh Cup opener, mostly through injury and college involvement.
The following array of talent is currently unavailable: Tomás Brady, Stephen Hiney, Conal Keaney, Simon Lambert, Ross O'Carroll, Alan McCrabbe, David Treacy, Finn McGarry, Liam Rushe, Paul Schutte, Kevin O'Loughlin, Oisín Gough, Peter Kelly and Niall Corcoran.
The sunnier side of what Daly has seen in January is that the plaudits and back-slapping which he and his team received at the back end of last year have done nothing to diminish their appetite for success.
Asked if the slightly patronising tone of the praise would help inspire Dublin to command respect for achievement rather than improvement, Daly responded: "I'd say inspire would be the wrong word. It's something we are conscious of, but having seen the boys training so far we don't think it will affect us. We won't know until we get into the real games.
"So far, so good: the effort is there and the fellas that can train are chomping at the bit. There's a good few looking on every night. There seems to be a good appetite there for work anyway and if you haven't that appetite you won't be involved at the business end, really," he added.
A year ago, Dublin beat Antrim (2-13 to 0-12), Galway (1-20 to 3-13), and Kilkenny (2-17 to 2-13) in Parnell Park to lift the Walsh Cup and, although Daly at the time diminished the merits of early-season silverware, his team showed some of the collective qualities which later led them to a league title and an All-Ireland semi-final spot.
This year, given that the league starts later and carries two less matches, Daly would prefer another decent run -- if to avoid the challenge match circuit as much as anything else.
"You'd like to have a bit of a run in the Walsh Cup and you'd want to experiment, but the college lads aren't available.
"Otherwise you'd be off looking for challenge matches at the weekends and funnily enough, it's in those matches you pick up most of these injuries.
"There is a longer run-in (to the start of the league), but five games and every game is absolutely vital now and you have to be ready for the first one and have as many bodies available as you can.
"The last couple of years we had seven matches and you had to be fairly on the ball, but this is making it even more intense.
"You'd be hoping to win one of the first two, get a good start and you are nearly mid-table with six teams in it.
"You'd be anxious to get off to a good start if you could."