Daly's men must rediscover how to dig out results
ANTHONY DALY has seen it all during his decorated career - much of the craziness distilled into one madcap summer in 1998 when hurling fact was indeed stranger than fiction, crowned by a referee's premature whistle to deny Clare the near-certainty of another All-Ireland appearance.
Yet even 'Dalo' must have been flabbergasted by developments in Nowlan Park last Sunday. The game itself was surreal - to ransack Kilkenny's vaunted rearguard for six goals and still end up losing beggars belief.
The climax, which saw Kilkenny make a blindside victory burst with two late goals, would have tested your credulity if it involved any other side bar those stripey assassins.
And then, to cap it all, you had the anarchic postscript as the Dublin manager was physically confronted by a spectator after the final whistle.
Daly was well able to give and take a 'dunt' during his own playing career, so it was no surprise to hear that he has no intention of taking the matter further. He wasn't physically hurt; ergo, injury was not added to insult.
What had just happened moments earlier -- Matthew Ruth breaking 14-man Dublin's valiant resolve with Kilkenny's fifth goal -- is surely a different matter. A blow to the solar plexus? More like a dagger through the heart.
The good news is that, for the second week running, Dublin can recycle a multitude of positives even from the detritus of another one-point defeat. They have now struck eight goals in two games, belying the stereotype of a team with a supposed aversion to green flags.
And the bad news? Well, there are only so many moral victories a team can take.
Last year, Dublin hurlers took a giant leap forward by accelerating beyond that moral victory cul-de-sac. Instead of losing with honour, they rescued league draws against Waterford and Kilkenny. They only lost three games all year. And of those, only the ultimate defeat, against Tipperary, qualified as a moral victory.
The heroic resistance of the injury-ravaged losers that day left Dublin in a good place to push on this year ... and now they've already lost four times by mid-March, their Walsh Cup exit to Laois followed by three straight league defeats.
Suffice to say, grandiose dreams of retaining their NHL crown have been replaced by fears of the grim relegation reaper. We remain convinced this won't happen because even presuming they end up in a relegation play-off with Waterford, they are hurling at a much higher level right now than the consistently faltering Déise.
However, playing well is all very well ... up to a point. Last spring, Dublin's ability to dig out results in adversity set them up well for a sustained summer run. Now they need to rediscover that trait in a hurry.