Concerns about the long break for Dublin hurlers
President pays tribute but Conran warns from experience about difficulties of five-week gap to All-Ireland semi-finals
GAA president Liam O’Neill said that the great voluntary work done in schools and clubs was more important to Dublin’s progress than the level of financial support. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The GAA president Liam O’Neill has paid tribute to the development work of the last 20 years that led to Dublin’s historic Leinster hurling title. He also said that the great voluntary work done in schools and clubs was more important to the county’s progress than the level of financial support.
O’Neill, who as chair of the Leinster Council and the national Games Development Committee had a close connection with the project and singled out Pat Daly, the GAA’s director of games development and research, for credit.
“. . . Without Pat Daly this wouldn’t have happened because he was the first to push the concept of coaching and the appointment of coaching officers, which began 20 years ago.
“Part of the development process was the promotion of hurling in Dublin and Pat’s thinking and strategy and his excellent vision of coaching played a huge part in that.
“It’s not just a matter of resources. If it was you could just throw money at every county. The biggest contribution came from the huge work done by volunteers, teachers at primary schools who sowed the seeds at juvenile level.”
“With the success of the underage teams and now the seniors there’s been a huge shift. There will be setbacks in a project like this, and last year was a setback for them, but the development process was set up to develop the game and not to win the Leinster championship – that has come about because of the development work.”
One issue that Dublin manager Anthony Daly will be addressing in the time ahead is the five-week break before the All-Ireland semi-final next month. Coming after five successive weeks of matches there is a danger momentum could be lost.
John Conran has experience of this, having managed Wexford to the shock defeat of the back-to-back All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in 2004, followed by Leinster final success against Offaly. He believes the six-week break was a major disadvantage for his team, who lost heavily to a Cork side who had two matches in the All-Ireland qualifiers while the Leinster champions waited for them in the weeks after their provincial success.
He would like to see a reversion to eight-team All-Ireland quarter-finals – a format used in 2006 and 2007 before it was dropped.
“I would prefer to see the winners of the provincial championships going into a seeded All-Ireland quarter-final and have a match within three weeks to focus on. I think the current gap of five weeks is too long.
‘Peaks and troughs’
“I’m a great believer in peaks and troughs. We peaked – we knew we had to – against Kilkenny in the semi-final and we put everything into that and just got over the line against Offaly in the Leinster final.
“What we did was go off and play a couple of weeks’ club championship. Getting the momentum back afterwards was very hard.
“That’ll be the challenge for Anthony Daly now: to keep Dublin on the boil. It’s harder as well as the thing progresses to get practice games. Five weeks is too long to keep the players coming in three and four times a week. But Anthony Daly is a very shrewd guy and I think he’ll be ready for that challenge.”
Conran believes that the title is deserved reward for Dublin’s efforts to develop hurling and despite the long interruption to their season sees them as contenders.
“I thought they played an incredibly strong brand of hurling and showed serious character when Galway came back at them in the second half. But the work that they’ve done from the ground up has been phenomenal between the under-age and colleges improvements. I’d love to see Dublin win the All-Ireland. It would good for hurling.”