We were taught lesson - Daly
IS this what it feels like to be the stalker stalked? Dublin hurlers, for so long the underdog, came to Salthill yesterday with a new reputation to protect - that of Allianz League champions.
By the final whistle, they were left raking over the embers of a performance that never caught fire, save for a few brief flickers during the second quarter.
Doubtless, too, after this seven-point ambush by Anthony Cunningham's Galway young guns, Dublin are wondering if they can expect a queue of equally gung-ho Division 1A opponents in the coming weeks.
"The Galway boys wanted the 50-50 balls more on the day than we did. Why that is I don't know," admitted Dubs coach Anthony Daly.
Symptomatic of Dublin's day was the late, injury-enforced exit of Peter Kelly at a time when they had already used all five substitutes.
The full-back is hopeful that his knee injury recurrence is only a minor impediment, and sounded like a man desperate to be right for Dublin's next league outing at Croke Park in a fortnight's time, declaring: "It's going to be all about the Cork game now."
Daly will hope for a full-blooded backlash because, for whatever reason, his players were curiously becalmed yesterday. They looked heavy-legged. They carried minimal punch close to goal. And Galway, under the stewardship of a new manager who can do no wrong right now between his dual hurling and football commitments, took full advantage.
Cunningham started with eight of the U21 team he led to All-Ireland glory last September. What followed was a complete vindication of his trust in youth and his policy of radical transformation with the perennial great under-achievers of hurling.
"We have the raw material, that would be the clear message from here," the Galway boss surmised.
"But we need time to get to the top of our game. We have the players but we won't be getting carried away with this. The big question is how much can we develop?"
Cunningham's caveat is understandable but, on this evidence, the likes of wing-back Niall Donoghue, attackers Conor Cooney and James Regan, and especially man of the match Niall Burke, have a big future in the game.
Mind you, they were facilitated by a strangely anaemic Dublin, who could have no complaints about the 0-20 to 0-13 margin.
Their manager was at a loss to explain it. Dublin started with 11 of the team that lined out against Tipperary in last year's All-Ireland semi-final.
"Everything seemed right during the week," Daly reflected. "We were happy with the preparation and we were happy with ourselves coming into it. It just didn't happen for us. I'll have a look at the DVD and see what the story is."
Daly had watched Galway during their recent Walsh Cup final against Kilkenny, when even a nine-point defeat didn't stop him being impressed with their physique.
"The stories were they were putting in an unmerciful effort," the Dublin boss said -- and that was reflected in their performance.
Dublin trailed from barely half-a-minute in, courtesy of a Burke free, and never drew level thereafter. Fittingly, it was Burke who completed Galway's total in the 70th minute -- that pinpoint '65' was his 10th point of the afternoon, five of them coming from play. What a way to mark your Galway debut.
The centre-forward gave Joey Boland a torrid examination before the latter was replaced after 50 minutes, while he was ably supported by Cooney (0-4 from play) and Regan (0-3).
Dublin, by contrast, were toothless in attack for the most part, reflected in the stark fact that their starting full-forward trio of David Treacy, debutant Shane Stapleton and Paul Ryan failed to register a single point from play.
Who knows, it may have been a different story if the visitors had converted a few first-half goal chances.
Instead, Ryan's early 20-metre free was stopped on the line by David Collins. Stapleton was then brilliantly blocked down as he sought to finish off Ryan's excellent approach work, while the referee's early whistle for a foul on Stapleton stopped Ryan in his tracks as another potential goal chance loomed.
The first half ended with Galway 0-9 to 0-8 ahead, with wind advantage to come, and Dublin's problems were exacerbated by the half-time departure of All Star Liam Rushe with a hip problem.
The home side were still only two points clear after 47 minutes, but then a run of five unanswered points from five different forwards in a 10-minute spell killed off Dublin's wilting challenge. Afterwards, Daly admitted it was Dublin's worst league performance since 2010 but he refused to use their recent training schedule as an excuse.
"We are (in heavy training), so is everyone else. That's the bottom line," he stressed. "It was a poor performance. You couldn't call it anything else."