Anthony Daly’s Dublin hurling rejuvenation sees capturing of Leinster title
Galway well and truly beaten by newcomers to hurling’s top table
Dublin captain Johnny McCaffrey lifts the Bob O’Keeffe Cup after Leinster final success over Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.
And the Hill sang Molly Malone. It was 52 years coming but when it got here, it was emphatic and it was glorious. In front of 36,657 paying guests at Croke Park, Dublin did onto Galway what Galway had done onto Kilkenny on the equivalent weekend last year. They put them through the spin cycle and hung them out to dry, ending up with a 2-25 to 2-13 victory to take a first Leinster title since 1961. Pick an All-Ireland winner now if you dare.
Nothing should surprise us any more, of course. Not in this hurling summer that feels like it’s hiding a new figary behind every door. First week in July and all three of the pre-championship favourites have already been beaten, one of them twice. Dublin have played five games in five weeks and, bar the first game against Wexford, without ever looking in danger of losing a single one. They get to sit back now and watch everyone else scuffle in the dirt just to reach them. Bliss.
If history meant nothing, you’d have said they were comfortable winners here. After Johnny McCaffrey swung over a point to make it 0-10 to 0-5 after 21 minutes, Galway toiled all day but were never able to get closer than that five-point margin. Every thrust was met with a parry – both Galway goals were followed almost immediately by a Dublin point.
But history means plenty. And even if it doesn’t tingle the senses of players who are too young to know nothing of it, it was a lead weight in the minds of their supporters who couldn’t relax until close to the very end. With five minutes to go and six between the sides, Joe Canning drew a save for the ages out of Gary Maguire in the Dublin goal. Only then did the stadium feel like it could breathe out.
Maguire’s intervention was crucial, for a goal then might well have lit a fire underneath a listless Galway side. As it was Dublin went into see-ball, hit-ball mode and spent the remaining minute slinging points over the bar for fun. Just to tie a sweet little bow on the whole afternoon, Leinster chairman Martin Skelly gifted the handing over of the Bob O’Keeffe Cup to 84-year-old Jimmy Grey – goalkeeper on the 1961 team and farmer of the harsh city land for countless fallow seasons. McCaffrey raised it to thunder from the stands.
Sense of fulfilment
For Anthony Daly, the sense of fulfilment was visceral. All the beatings, all the dashed hopes, all the pats on the head for the good work at underage – everything disappeared yesterday. His side played by far the more structured game but they battled like they meant it too. It was clear from very early on that the domino-run of games was more a help than a hindrance, clear too that their appetite had grown with the passing of the weeks. Dog days are over, dog days are done.
“I knew coming up the road in 2008 it wasn’t all going to be good,” he said. “We got beaten by 18 points in the Walsh Cup soon after. But I knew coming in that I wasn’t coming to a place that had no chance. I’d seen that Colleges team beating St Flannan’s .
“I remember being upstairs when the minors were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final, Clare had been beaten by Cork and it was a painful day. They were all over getting autographs from the boys, the Lohans and the Lynchs. We knew there was great work going on, so we tried to work on that.
“But we had dark days alright, there’s no doubt about it. Driving around Fanore there after the Antrim defeat . But we’re in it for the days like today, the joy of it. It’s what I love doing. I’d love to be still playing, but I wouldn’t make it at the minute. Fitzy’s not giving me the head’s up down there.”
For Galway, there are no excuses. One game against Laois was probably no real preparation but then they didn’t exactly have to perform the labours of Hercules to reach last year’s final and look what happened. Anthony Cunningham held his hands up. They were flat, Dublin were fizzing. No further questions, m’lud.
“The better team won on the day,” said Cunningham. “It took us a good while to get going. We were a bit late to the breaking ball there in the middle third. We were a bit off it. We came back well and would be happy with a lot of aspects there in the second-half but we still have a lot to work on. We have a bit of catching up to do on Dublin. But we’re not out of the championship yet.”
For the first time in a generation, it feels like most teams left standing can say that with some confidence. What more can we ask for?