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Saturday 24 August 2019

'It's why you play hurling'... tough years at an end

Captain Crummey reckons Dublin 'made their own luck' this year to reward 'seriously loyal' fans

DAYS LIKE THIS: Chris Crummey savours the Dublin win over Galway with their fans on the Parnell Park turf. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
DAYS LIKE THIS: Chris Crummey savours the Dublin win over Galway with their fans on the Parnell Park turf. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

AS the embers cooled in Parnell Park on one of the great nights for Dublin hurling, Chris Crummey's thoughts meandered back to the afternoon of May 19.

With five minutes of injury-time played at the end of their match with Wexford that day, things looked particularly bleak for Dublin.

For the second week in a row, they had abdicated a position of considerable authority, conceding two goals to Wexford and contriving to turn a five-point lead into a three-point deficit.

For the second summer in a row, they would be lame ducks in the Leinster SHC with two games still to play.

Out of the Championship by the middle of May.

PUSHING FORWARD: Dublin’s Chris Crummey is tackled by Brian Concannon of Galway during the Leinster SHC Round 5 match at Parnell Park on Saturday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
PUSHING FORWARD: Dublin’s Chris Crummey is tackled by Brian Concannon of Galway during the Leinster SHC Round 5 match at Parnell Park on Saturday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"It's unbelievable," exhaled Crummey, the Dublin captain who has soldiered on more bad days than good since making his breakthrough in 2015.

"But sport, it does come down to really fine margins and a bit of luck here and there.

"Last year, if I'm honest, we didn't get that luck. This year, we've probably made our own luck a bit.

"Seán getting the free, we said it already. That was the turning point in our year."

Whether Seán Moran's free was mis-hit or deliberately spun into the ground in front of the Wexford defenders on the goal line at the scoreboard end of Parnell Park is academic now.

Drama

But it saved Dublin's summer and paved the way for Saturday night's victory, one that Anthony Daly described as "the greatest night for Dublin hurling ever in Parnell Park" the following day on The Sunday Game's live show.

Like Dublin's League quarter-final victory over Tipperary (the only one of the four quarter-finals not to be televised), Sunday night's RTÉ highlight's package didn't begin to do justice to the drama in Parnell Park.

As a spectacle, it ranked favourably among any of the games that attained instant-classic status in last year's Championship.

The teams were level on an excruciating 18 occasions.

And for that select band of people who regularly follow the Dublin hurling team, the game followed the pattern of so many near misses over the past 12 months until such time as it didn't.

Then, with the ground practically levitating with tension, Dublin scored 1-5 in the last eight minutes to Galway's 0-2.

"Galway threw everything at us. We threw everything at them. It was literally score for score," Crummey reflected.

"And we knew it was going to go down to the last five or ten minutes and we're just delighted to get the job done. Finally.

"We had so many near misses last year. The work that Pat and the lads did last year was unbelievable but we never got the win. The lads who have come in this year have brought us on again.

"We're just delighted. You saw there (on Saturday), there were lads making their debuts. There were some lads who maybe haven't got much game time.

"Our panel was unbelievable. The lads who came in made a big difference - the likes of Ronan (Hayes), James (Madden), Daire Gray. Brilliant. That's what you have a panel for.

"Eoghan (O'Donnell) went off after 15 minutes. Eoghan's been a huge player for us. A leader. Him going off so early would have knocked us in other years.

"Joe Canning coming on, we didn't break stride. It was just magic."

Crummey's own role in all of this was considerable.

It's difficult to think of a less appealing task in hurling just now than marking Johnny Glynn, but Crummey did just that and decisively won his battle.

He also found time to gallop forward, win a penalty and score the winning goal. Roy of the Rovers stuff.

"I was probably getting a bit frustrated in that I wasn't seeing as much ball as I usually do," he explained.

"And I saw space twice and I just said 'I'll gamble and I'll go forward.'

"I used to play in the forwards a bit and there's nothing worse than when you have to track a wing-back who makes forward runs.

"That was a tactic I had - try and put him on the back foot going that way.

"Thankfully I got two balls and we got scores out of them."

The second one sent Parnell Park into a state of fervent delirium, the sort the old ground hasn't witnessed in years.

Parnell Park, where Dublin boast an unbeaten record in League and Championship in 2019, converted from fortress into festival in those celebratory moments immediately afterwards.

"It was amazing," Crummey confirmed. "In fairness, since I've been involved, we've had a very loyal following. It's probably not the largest following. But we had a seriously loyal following.

"And to see those people who have been close to us, who have been there in the tough days of the last few years on the pitch and all the emotion that they showed . . . it's why you play hurling.

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