Wednesday 24 April 2019

Sky Blues wait over

Daly lauds Dublin's first Leinster win since 1961

Dublin captain John McCaffrey is presented with the Bob O'Keeffe Cup by Jimmy Gray who played in goal the last time Dublin won the cup. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Dublin captain John McCaffrey is presented with the Bob O'Keeffe Cup by Jimmy Gray who played in goal the last time Dublin won the cup. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

AS renovation jobs go, that was pretty epic, bordering on the miraculous. And for context, it's pertinent to look back just one last time.

Savaged by Kilkenny, beaten by Clare in Ennis. A short, painful summer followed by a dark, unpromising winter.

Tomás Brady goes footballing. Their trainer, Martin Kennedy, too.

Next up, the two most promising minor hurlers of recent vintage, Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello, opt for big ball.

And from all that rubble and disappointment and unfulfilment, Anthony Daly, his management team and the very same panel of players come out a season later and win the most remarkable of Leinster titles any county has won in verifiable memory.


"In the few minutes afterwards, you're just trying to take it all in," reflected Daly after enough time had passed since the final whistle for the Clareman to relocate his bearings, adding that he would be "a liar" if he didn't say the victory felt very similar to Clare's famine-ending Munster title of 1995.

"I'm very satisfied. I knew coming up the road in 2008 it wasn't all going to be (good)... we had dark days alright, there's no doubt about it: driving around Fanore there after the Antrim defeat (in 2010). We were in it for the days like today, the joy of it. It's what I love doing."

Even for sheer length, the journey to this Bob O'Keeffe Cup was marathon-like. Five matches, two draws, Kilkenny scalped and then, yesterday, the pièce de résistance, the best quality and most character-filled performance Dublin have, in Daly's reign, produced.

"People said 'would we have the legs for it?' here after being in the other three pitches we've played on. But I think the lads revel in this place," he reasoned. "If you're playing with confidence, it's the place to be. The Dublin crowd were magnificent, they really got behind them from the start and they were like an extra man, to be honest."


Still, it's a fair achievement to beat Kilkenny, just enhanced by doing it in a replay and then, most impressively of all, to regroup, refocus and all of eight days later, beat Galway in Croke Park with absolutely no signs of fatigue, either mental or physical.

"No, I felt on Sunday morning that there was a good focus there. We had a recovery session in Portmarnock and then gave them a break until Wednesday," Daly explained.

"That's (trainer) Ross Dunphy's thinking and in fairness, they've loved that bit of a break from each other and from the training.

"Then we do a good hour on a Wednesday night – Tommy Dunne comes the odd night and he came this Wednesday and did an hour with them. And he just said to me afterwards, 'There's no tiredness there.'

"We did a bit on Friday night, just a few pucks, and you could see that they were bulling for road. It's a nice way to be, playing the games and feeling the excitement building.

"We've been building all the time, from a poor first night to today. I suppose there's another challenge on our hands, to manage the time off."

Even Anthony Cunningham marvelled at Dublin, branding his team's conquerors "the most progressive team in the country."

The Galway manager said: "They create space up front but their overall fitness levels throughout the pitch and their abilities ... let's be honest, the amount of work that has gone into hurling in Dublin means they deserve a day like this. It is reward for the inventiveness and investment that has gone into Dublin.

"We got a great crowd today and they deserve it. They are tremendous ambassadors for the game in Dublin. They have stuck at it through thick and thin. They have had many difficult days," he added, "but we won't rule out having a go at them again some time."


For Daly – and the hardcore Dublin fans (supplemented, quite nicely, by plenty of newcomers on the Hill and elsewhere in Croke Park yesterday), the day might just finally have erased 2012 from living memory. "Yeah, it's like as if they took up from 2011, you know? Once we got over Wexford – I kind of felt it that week between the two Wexford games.

"We got a fair bit of stick after that first game and we were entitled to get it. We didn't hurl that night. But again, Wexford were never going to roll over for us below in Wexford Park either. They came at us with everything. We didn't do much that week only ask each other about our character.

"From that week on, fellas responded and showed the character that's in there. They're good lads. I'd like to think that we pick characters as much as we could. We didn't go around worrying about the few lads that picked the football or things like that. We said we have good lads and we tried to stick with them.

"I don't know if you can enjoy it. I'll enjoy it over the next few hours I suppose. It was a good day, a great day."

The greatest.

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