Anthony Daly sees all the work pay off
Dublin hurling reaches new heights with Leinster final win over Galway
Dublin manager Anthony Daly celebrates after Leinster final win over Galway. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.
Johnny McCaffrey’s speech ticked up towards its crescendo but Anthony Daly’s was the only face anyone wanted to see. The Dublin manager doesn’t really do the strong, silent type but he gave it his best shot.
A raised thumb to McCaffrey and his players was the best he could manage but you could see the emotion of it all might bubble out the side of an eye at any moment. As McCaffrey moved on to giving the Galway team three cheers, Daly pulled the peak of his cap down over his face. His own moment, just himself.
By the time he reached the press conference room half an hour later, he was becalmed. His team had been a credit to him, committed and true to every ball. Conal Keaney had put in a day from the heavens, brave and strong under the dropping ball and never tiring for a step. And the notion that they might flag as a result of so many games in such a short space of time was just plain incorrect.
“I felt on Sunday morning that there was a good focus there,” said Daly. “We had a recovery session in Portmarnock and then gave them a break until Wednesday. That’s Ross Dunphy’s thinking and in fairness, they’ve loved that bit of a break from each other and from the training.
“Then we did a good hour on 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 the 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.”
Dublin peeled back the onion layer by layer all summer. They’re unrecognisable now from the team that heaved and huffed to a draw against Wexford a month ago.
They’ve become battle-hardened and bloody-minded and they don’t see any challenge they don’t like the look of. The whole run hasn’t been about building character so much as revealing it.
“I kind of felt it that week between the two Wexford games,” said Daly. “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 did 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.”
For Anthony Cunningham, Galway got what they deserved. His side had none of Dublin’s slickness, none of their zeal either. He wouldn’t make the excuse of only having one game to prepare. The better team won, the better team deserved to win.
“We started okayish but as the match wore on, their championship sharpness showed. What can we learn from this position? The team in this position last year went on to win the All-Ireland. They did that by learning. We have a lot to learn from this and it is how we use it now.
“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 but we won’t rule out having a go at them again sometime. As we reminded Dublin there after congratulating them, we are still only one step behind them now and it is do-or-die the next day.”