Conal Keaney: 'Daly was nearly too loyal. He always picked 'best' team, even if not on form'
'A LOT riding on it," probably isn't the most typical way a player might preview the first game of spring but that was Conal Keaney's synopsis yesterday in Belfast at the launch of this year's Allianz Hurling League.
He has a point.
Dublin are the only team in Division 1A or 1B with a new manager so internally, each early match in the Ger Cunningham reign takes on a medium term importance.
They faded slightly last Saturday evening in Croke Park, too.
A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, yes, but against a team for whom any and all advantage or psychological superiority is greatly needed this year.
Plus, it's Tipperary this Sunday in Parnell Park (2.0).
Not that the Premier/Capital spat is necessarily an entity gaining traction as one of hurling's pulsing rivalries, it's just that they've been on hand to put Dublin back their box quite a bit of late.
"We played Tipperary in the league last year and they progressed through points difference," Keaney recalls.
"We had them beaten that day but we thought we had to beat them by more, so we lobbed the ball in.
"I think they used that as a spring board because we would have went through and they wouldn't have went through and wouldn't have been in the relegation play-offs.
"We kind of felt aggrieved by that."
So much so that, according to Anthony Daly in his recently published autobiography, Gary Maguire had a pop at management afterwards over their inability/reticence in communicating the requirements to the players.
Had Niall McMorrow stuck a late possession over the bar, chances are Dublin would have still lost, but by a sufficiently narrow deficit to consign Tipp to the relegation play-off.
Which wasn't even the worst of Dublin's experiences in combat against Eamon O'Shea's men last year.
"In the Championship, we didn't turn up," Keaney admits of Daly's final match in charge, a down note of his tenure.
"Even saying that, I still think we were in with a shout.
"This year, it's a new year, new management obviously. All of that is irrelevant really.
"This group of players, there is a rivalry and we have played them a load of times and they have probably beaten us when it mattered.
"And the fact we have a new manager, everybody has to prove to him that we are the players we think we are.
"It's so important to get two points on the board, especially when it is in Parnell Park.
"There is a lot riding on it."
So far, so decent.
It had been going swimmingly under Cunningham until Galway's comeback and victory last Saturday, though a winning start to the League in front of the live TG4 cameras on Sunday would consign that particular result to less than a footnote in Dublin's season.
"He is a lot quieter," Keaney says of the new man at the helm.
"While Daly would be going around talking all the time, in the middle of the craic all the time.
"Ger has set out the tone that if you don't produce in games, then you won't play."
It doesn't matter if you are there two weeks, two years, ten years, whatever.
"It doesn't matter to him, he is going to play the lads who are on form and to get playing on Sunday you need to be performing on the Tuesdays and Thursdays (in training).
"Nearly with Daly, he was nearly too loyal to players, you know?
"He always picked what he thought was the best team, even if they were on form or not."