Peter Kelly: Managers have changed but the goal remains the same for Dublin hurlers
Change of manager hasn't altered ultimate goal Kelly affirms
SUCH was the force of his personality, easily the most distinguishable feature of the Dublin hurling team these past few formative years was Anthony Daly.
His mood, gait and tone were always indicative of the team's well-being and his honesty, as refreshing as it was revealing.
Sunday week is the beginning for Dublin hurling team's first summer post-Daly.
And such were the boisterous oscillations of their spring, nobody's quite sure what to expect.
The Clare man has departed, replaced by the largely inscrutable Ger Cunningham, yet it's hard to detect with any portion of real insight what has changed within the team itself.
"They're different in so many ways," confirms Peter Kelly. "Daly would have been constantly talking in the dressing room.
"He would have generated an atmosphere in the dressing room whereas Ger would leave that to the players and let the players lead the atmosphere.
"At the start it was strange not having that driving, one voice in the dressing room. It took the players a while to get used to it but I think we have now.
"We definitely enjoy the player-driven environment."
New manager - new goals?
Such was the jagged progress of Daly's six years there, Dublin established themselves as diners at hurling's big banquet pretty early on, won the League and a Leinster title in 2011 and '13 and even at the end, when they appeared further away than ever to Liam MacCarthy, that was their identifiable target.
"I think there are probably 10 teams out there who make the same goals every year, to win the provincial and to win the All-Ireland and we're probably one of those 10 teams," Kelly says, which, of course, is just a media-savvy, 'round-the-houses way of saying that Dublin still feel themselves capable of landing an All-Ireland.
The other burning Dublin hurling topic by 2014's summer end was that 'manufactured hurlers' barb, a sort of easy-access, hurling-snobbery put-down, derived usually from a lack of knowledge of these Dublin hurlers, their abilities and what defines them as such.
"We know what we have in Dublin," says Kelly, whose pace, strength and athleticism might have made him a show-piece for such a tag, were it not for his innate hurling talents.
"We train with them five or six times a week. I think sometimes pundits like to ripple the waters a bit and see can it shake things.
"I don't think it ever got into our dressing room at all. We know how technically gifted the Dublin hurlers are. We've proved it time and time again so I don't think it's a big deal to be honest."
A direct consequence of Dublin's lack of tradition in a sport monopolised by its own?
"Probably so. We're kind of making tradition as we go along," Kelly reckons.
"Compared to previous times we're a very successful Dublin hurling team.
"When a (downturn like last summer's) like that happens, there has to be reasons why and when a big loss comes there has to be a reason why as well. So it's just a stab in the dark really."
Another development since Daly's decamping is Kelly's elevation to co-captain, entrusted with the honour along with Liam Rushe, a similarly fresh vintage though both already possessing buxom experience.
The role doesn't, Kelly explains, carry with it the range of tasks that once existed.
"Dublin captain, maybe years ago, might have been a bit of a babysitting job," the Lucan defender recalls.
"Dragging the team along with you. You can see the leaders that we had in the past that had to lead by performance.
"But I think, with myself and Rushie, it's just about whoever goes up for the toss.
"There are a lot of leaders in the dressing-room at the moment that our job is relatively done.
"There's not much speaking. Everyone knows their job. There is no real change of focus."
"We lost Anthony, we lost Stephen Hiney. They were two big voices in the dressing-room and there are a void left.
"Ger recognised that when he came in and he really encouraged leadership in the dressing-room and he really encouraged a player-driven environment.
"I think that has been implemented quite well and there has been a lot of players standing up to be counted.
"And hopefully," Kelly concludes, "that will happen on May 31st."