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Monday 11 December 2017

Marty Morris dances to the Blues' beat

Former boss savours Tipp starter but now for main course: The Cats

Chris Crummy, Dublin
Chris Crummy, Dublin
Conal Keaney starred for Dublin hurlers in their successful 2003 Walsh Cup campaign. Manager of the time, Marty Morris, reckons he could go down as the greatest loss ever to Dublin hurling

A LOT of water has passed under the bridge since Johnny McGuirk scored the winning point for Dublin against Kilkenny in the 2003 Walsh Cup final at Parnell Park.

"He was on the 14th (hole) in Clontarf!" Marty Morris laughs, in mischievous recall of his finest hour as Dublin senior hurling manager.

Dublin hadn't won a trophy since the 1960s. Nor had they beaten Kilkenny for years. It was a landmark of sorts, even if the wounded Cats duly steamrolled Dublin in that year's league (by 2-22 to 2-8) and again in Leinster (by 3-16 to 0-10).

"Kilkenny did that to everybody in 2003, it was nothing out of the ordinary," Morris clarifies.

He stepped down at the end of that season, and Kilkenny would dish out a few more hammerings over the intervening years before Anthony Daly arrived at the Donnycarney helm and tilted the balance of this previously lopsided relationship.

DREAD

There is still no doubting who retains the upper hand - last year's Leinster final underlined that reality. But this Sunday, as Ger Cunningham becomes the seventh Dublin manager to share a touchline with Brian Cody, there is a sense that David no longer lives in mortal dread of Goliath.

The 2011 league final was a key moment; the 2013 Leinster semi-final replay in Portlaoise a far more significant watershed. Dublin had the upper hand in Parnell Park last spring, while some of their more recent scorefest visits to Nowlan Park (in 2009 and 2012) may have resulted in narrow defeat but only after Dublin saw tantalising victory slip through their fingers.

Watching Dublin get off to a league flyer at home to Tipperary last Sunday, Morris marvelled at their "incredible" workrate, their hooking and blocking, "and their use of the handpass - they didn't panic in tricky positions." Cue a 12-point victory.

The former manager saw this as further evidence of how Dublin hurling has developed since his own brief spell in the hotseat - but he reckons we are now witnessing the fruits of a long-time project.

"A lot of it is down to the Blueprint for Dublin Hurling, which evolved around the time that I came in as manager. Humphrey Kelleher and Michael O'Grady would have been involved in drawing up that document, where the infrastructure was improved and there was massive work put into the underage development squads.

"What's been happening over the last ten years is that at college level, minor and U21, Dublin went from challenging and being competitive to winning those games against Kilkenny - and that's where the fear factor sort of washed out.

"Go back generations: Dublin minor teams got hammered at college level and then in the minor championship as well. It built a fear factor or an inferiority complex when you came out at senior.

"The managers had to try and address that then, and it wasn't easy because Kilkenny had gone on and won minor All-Irelands, their players were used to the big day.

"Whilst Dublin haven't won an All-Ireland and it's a great travesty that they haven't at minor or U21, they definitely have no fear of Kilkenny. Because they've beaten them at minor and U21 and they're stepping out at senior, just full of confidence, which is fantastic. And that's down to everybody that's working so hard in Dublin - including the great work that Anthony Daly did."

INEXPLICABLE

Daly was the sixth Dublin manager to face Cody, and the one with whom he locked swords most often and memorably. O'Grady, Kevin Fennelly, Morris, Kelleher and Tommy Naughton had all preceded him in battle with the Kilkenny legend; now Corkman Cunningham steps into the breach.

Harking back to last summer, Morris describes Dublin's championship fadeout against Kilkenny and Tipperary as "inexplicable" but then wonders aloud if the previous summer - when they toppled the Cats and Galway, only to run out of road (and luck) against Cork - had been the one that got away.

"Maybe the previous year was the year; they were a spent force possibly (in 2014). But you definitely need regeneration in that situation," he says, saluting the first team elevation of erstwhile squad members (Chris Crummey and Eamonn Dillon spring to mind) under the new manager.

"If you go back to Kilkenny and all the great teams as they won their All-Irelands - they rarely stayed with the same 15. Because if you stand still you get caught," Morris surmises.

"There's a couple of young lads that have leaked across, unfortunately, to the football - young (Cormac) Costello and (Ciarán) Kilkenny - which would have been a massive addition to Dublin. And if you had those two, I think you have a potential All-Ireland winning team."

More positively, he concludes: "The great thing from my viewpoint, and any Dublin supporter, would be beating Kilkenny in the championship. Once they had achieved that, that's the big thing.

"They're the benchmark. If Dublin did that in '13, there's no reason they can't do it again in '15."

 

It built a fear factor or an inferiority complex when you came out at senior.

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