Dubs' drive to win Liam
DESPITE a historic win in Leinster, it's the Cork defeat that spurs on All Star Peter Kelly
PETER KELLY won his first All Star earlier this month but partying was strictly off-limits, given the proximity of a maiden county final appearance with his club, Lucan Sarsfields, just two days later.
Last Saturday night at the Convention Centre, there was more scope to celebrate a spectacular year but, even here, the Dublin full-back admits to a sense that someone or something was missing. A bit like having a surprise party where the birthday boy never shows.
Anthony Daly's men had gathered for the end-of-year presentation of their Leinster SHC medals, the first Dublin hurlers to be thus honoured in 52 years. The Bob O'Keeffe Cup was there in all its super-sized majesty. Ditto the Walsh Cup and NHL Division 1B trophy.
One chalice, though, was marked absent.
"It was kind of strange," Kelly admitted yesterday, "because it feels like a millions years since we won those cups and we saw how the summer developed and the excitement that happened. A bit of an anti-climax, maybe, because the one we wanted wasn't at the top table."
He didn't have to mention Liam MacCarthy by name; the message was crystal clear.
"It definitely gave us an incentive to drive on for next year," he affirmed. "It was a great night and we definitely are happy with the achievements - but we're not happy to sit with that now.
"Those cups will be thrown underneath the bed now and forgotten about. The lads are already back training and looking forward to the Walsh Cup. That will be the first one, to try and retain that, and drive it on from there."
Given the previous history of Daly's tenure - one breakthrough year followed by a bleak one, before the cycle repeats - the inevitable statistical fear about 2014 is that Dublin will stagnate instead of pushing towards that All-Ireland holy grail.
But Kelly believes they are better equipped now than they were, say, in 2010 or 2012.
Speaking at yesterday's launch of the GAA's 'Off the Booze, On the Ball' initiative - preaching a positive message about reduced alcohol consumption and healthier lifestyles - the Dublin No 3 said the were "keenly aware" they had set a higher bar of achievement by winning Leinster.
"We were a lot more mature (this year)," he expanded. "I think there was definitely a noticeable improvement in our maturity, so we'll try to bring that into 2014 again.
"Like, it's scary the mistakes we made in those off-years so we'll definitely be keenly aware not to make them again."
Asked if complacency had been an issue in those previous campaigns, he conceded: "Maybe it was. You don't notice it when you're in there. Maybe looking back, you see things and think you could have done something different.
"We got a taste of silverware this year. We know what we did to get that. And we know we have to raise the bar again."
Many observers (this one included) will argue that Kelly's All Star recognition came two years too late; that the 'stop-gap' full-back of 2011 merited inclusion. That summer, the erstwhile half-back delivered a necklace of inspirational displays after being pushed into full-back duty once Tomás Brady tore his cruciate against Galway that June.
According to the man himself, it seems "more than two years away now. Even in terms of how I have progressed and the team has progressed, it seems a much happier year in 2013. People were looking at 2011 as the fluke year and the flash in the pan, and it was great to follow up with 2013. We felt our three All Stars were deserved and maybe a few more so, we are happy with the All Stars we won and are looking to push on now."
But was 2013 in any way tainted by that 'what if' semi-final defeat for 14 Sky Blues against 15 Rebels?
"It's a hard one to call," Kelly demurred. "It will probably take a while for the Cork game to get out of the system; it will go into the first few games of the league and we will still be thinking about it. You are always thinking about your last game, and until we get that one out of the way it will still be there."