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Dublin demise in stark contrast to Galway glory

CAST your mind back to April 15. It's a National Hurling League relegation play-off in its fourth minute of stoppage time when Joe Canning rescues Galway's top-flight status with an equalising point.

Dublin pick up two red cards in extra-time only to launch an improbable comeback and force a replay. If any team exits O'Connor Park experiencing relief, bordering on jubilation, it is the men bedecked in blue. Almost three months on, what has gone wrong with Dublin? And what has come right for Galway?

There are myriad reasons, too many to recount in one column, but we'll start with Joe Canning (pictured). Dublin don't possess one forward who could lace his boots. That is not meant as an insult - the Galway talisman is the possessor or a rare genius - but a statement of fact.

Canning had missed the entire league through injury before the aforementioned play-off. A rusty first half duly gave way to a regal second when he scored 10 points, an incredible six from open play.

Fast-forward to last Sunday. When big Joe in his new super-fit incarnation capped a virtuoso performance with an injury-time free, he had brought his tally to 1-10 (1-3 from play) in a Leinster final that defied everything we have come to know about Kilkenny, and maybe Galway too.

Rudderless

The All-Ireland champions, who had eviscerated Dublin by 18 points a fortnight earlier, were now themselves on the receiving end of a 10-point pasting. Meanwhile, the previous night in Ennis, Dublin had made a rudderless, aimless, almost apologetic exit from the championship.

We all thought they were better than this. Now we are wondering if last year's league coronation and All-Ireland semi-final appearance constituted the actual blip.

Maybe it's true that some marquee Sky Blue hurlers were lulled by their own glowing PR post-2011, or maybe not, but it's indisputable that some players who should have been leaders didn't step up to the plate. The injury-enforced loss of Conal Keaney has been a contributory factor, but that doesn't excuse the surrender of a six-point lead against 14 Clare men.

Leaving aside leadership issues, there are areas of deep structural concern - especially up front. By glaring contrast with Galway against Kilkenny, Dublin have lost the knack of engineering space and, by extension, creating goal chances.

This is partly to do with ill-conceived or poorly executed deliveries; but the forwards also stand indicted, not just for errant shooting (15 wides last Saturday) but for lacking the pace or wit to escape Clare's defensive phalanx.

The stats are damning. Dublin have played 10 league or championship games this year and won just once - against non-existent Laois opposition.

Personally, we hope Anthony Daly stays on because he has worked wonders and because, without him, there are justifiable fears that Dublin could disappear further back into the pack. But even if he stays, the capital's so-called revolution is crying out for radical reinvention.