Don't Rushe to judge young Dubs
Skipper slams the 'pall of negativity and skewed commentary' that followed Blues' 14-point defeat
For Liam Rushe, those few days after Dublin crashed out of the Leinster senior hurling championship felt different to most other defeats he has endured in a Sky Blue jersey.
Pundits queuing up to say the most controversial thing. Bullets fired everywhere. What he deemed a skewed narrative of the match against Galway.
And, hanging over it all, this "pall of negativity" about the state of Dublin hurling; about all the players who have departed, for one reason or another, under the embattled reign of Ger Cunningham.
For the moment, the skipper knows there isn't a whole lot he can do to alter the narrative other than to offer his counter-opinion.
Ultimately, Rushe and his young teammates can only change minds by turning their recently nosediving fortunes around on the field itself.
And that's why he's champing at the bit for July 1, when Dublin enter the last-chance-saloon of the qualifiers. Even knowing who they will face would help; right now, they're in a void.
Meanwhile, everyone else has had their say about May 28, when pre-match predictions of a heavy defeat against the rampant Allianz League champions ultimately proved on the money.
In his Irish Independent column, Brendan Cummins echoed Michael Carton's oft-quoted complaint by claiming there was a "toxic cloud hanging over the Dublin hurling panel" but he wasn't alone in his trenchant critique.
How did all this play out for the younger squad members?
"I don't think it bothered them that much," says Rushe, speaking at an Aer Lingus/Dublin GAA promotional event this week.
"I suppose the overall pall of negativity never helps anybody, does it? It was the only talking point really that weekend, the state of Dublin hurling.
"And, as I said, there wasn't really much to be got from the game afterwards so it just turned to … ah, I think a lot of it is a bit sensationalist, to be honest. Everyone just wants to make a name for themselves; each pundit wants to be the one who shouts the loudest and says the most controversial thing.
"So there was just bullets being fired all round. And yeah, it obviously wasn't ideal. But the lads know we've a decent team, a decent panel still there, and five weeks to turn things around."
But does that bring pressure, knowing that only positive results can change the script?
"I wouldn't say pressure," he replies. "But I wouldn't ordinarily pay too much heed to it, but for the sheer volume of it that week. It was hard to ignore. It seemed to be on print, the television, the radio, wherever you turned there was someone commenting on it.
"But that's it exactly. We aren't that bad. I just think a lot of the commentary was skewed.
"And it's on us to turn it around. I suppose it's a good position to be in; it's a pity the game is almost too far away nearly, five weeks is a long time to be training with no matches in between. But, look, it's an opportunity to turn it around.
"I mean, there's no expectations now so you might see it as pressure - I'd say to you, 'Well, nobody seems to be expecting a thing so maybe we're in a good spot'."
The naysayers have stats on their side: Dublin lost by 14 points, 2-28 to 1-17. But according to Rushe, you can't make definitive judgements based on Dublin's numerical disadvantage for the last half-hour, following a red card for Cian O'Callaghan that he still cannot fathom.
"The first yellow was crazy," he claims. "Cian was running in to block him (goalscorer Jason Flynn), pulled out, it was a chest to chest, it wasn't even a late hit … I don't know what Barry (Kelly) thought he saw. But there was nothing there.
"You could definitely say for the second one, 'Oh yeah, a trip, be it accidental or deliberate.' And I think there were two defenders over anyway, so I wouldn't exactly call it too cynical.
"But, yeah, in my opinion that kind of ruined the game and robbed us of any objective analysis of where we really are. Because thereafter it was just a media storm of 'so-and-so should be there and so-and-so shouldn't be there'."
"And you hear afterward - a hammering, a 14-point hammering - but put an asterisk there and say 'Yeah, you're down a man for half-an-hour.' There's not many teams are going to stay much closer to Galway than that."
Trouble with Dublin is that they've been down countless more men because of myriad departures, enforced or self-imposed, under Cunningham.
"Look, people have left the panel. Some of them dropped, a lot of them left of their own accord for different reasons. And you ask them, they'll all have literally a dozen different reasons. So you couldn't pin it on any one thing," Rushe points out.
"There's just so many different opinions going around, all about different players here, there and everywhere. And I just think the actual game got lost in the wash."
He accepts that the latest departures - Mark and Paul Schutte - constituted a big setback. But Mark's subsequent decision to enlist with Jim Gavin's footballers "didn't really bother us too much."
As Rushe explains: "Him pulling from the hurling obviously was a loss, but he kind of flagged it following the Cuala (All-Ireland club final). He had his finals and he just said 'Look, I'm not going to come back in.' They weren't over until the middle of May so he was never realistically in the mix for the Galway game … he's certainly a big loss, we'd love to have him, but he's the footballers' gain."
Ever since the season started, between costly individual errors, injuries, two soft goals (against Waterford), a first half red (against Kilkenny), he reckons that Dublin "just couldn't seem to buy a bit of luck."
But at the outset of 2017 he had deemed an All-Ireland quarter-final place as a "realistic target" and he still believes this is within their compass.
Last question: can Dublin use this onslaught of criticism as motivation in their quest for 'back door' redemption?
"You can use it if you want, but I always think it's fickle motivation because it runs out very quick, trying to disprove people. I'd much rather just say we're out there to work for each other and prove how good we are."