The man with the plan sees grey skies turn blue for Dublin hurling
Michael O’Grady believes one MacCarthy Cup would be worth five football All-Irelands
Danny Sutcliffe slips past the challenge of defender Tommy Walsh to score the goal that made sure of the Dublin hurlers’ historic Leinster championship victory over Kilkenny. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
A hurling All-Ireland for Dublin would be worth five football equivalents, according to former county hurling manager Michael O’Grady, who also chaired the 2001 Dublin Hurling Review Group.
Last Saturday saw the first championship win over Kilkenny in almost exactly 71 years, since the 1942 Leinster final in Nowlan Park and for O’Grady the breakthrough replay victory over the All-Ireland champions has endorsed the extensive development work carried out in the county on foot of his group’s proposals 12 years ago.
“In the past 12 months people have been doubting the whole Dublin hurling project because of the difficulties of the senior team.
“While they weren’t able to play with much fluidity that’s not the way to gauge the success of the whole project but I accept that a county senior team is seen as a benchmark.
“Yet hurling’s never been stronger at juvenile level and as was stated in the annual report last year there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of teams playing hurling.
“Look at the bigger picture: there were eight clubs competitive in last year’s Féile, which was hosted in Dublin.
“St Brigid’s won but the biggest proof for me was the presence of what had been primarily football clubs, Clontarf and Whitehall Colmcilles.
“The combined Dublin colleges won an All-Ireland (in 2006) but it’s even better there are now three Dublin teams competing: Coláiste Eoin and the two regional teams (north and south Dublin). I’m happy not to be winning when there are around 90 hurlers involved in senior colleges, rather than the 30 of a few years ago.
“But it’s a great relief to be back where we were, in the top frame. We might have it all to do in terms of the weekend’s Leinster final but at last there’s a feeling we’re building on where we were two years ago.”
Back in 2011, Dublin beat Kilkenny to win the county’s first national league in 72 years and reached the All-Ireland semi-finals for the first time in half a century but the achievements were overshadowed by a significant revenge beating by Kilkenny in that year’s Leinster final.
Defeating Kilkenny in championship had become the watershed aspiration for Dublin but after another merciless trimming 12 months ago the goal looked as distant as ever.
“What happened last Saturday was what people expected 12 months ago when we turned up thinking that there was a great chance – that the league match when they scored six goals in Nowlan Park had been a stepping stone. But we were so flat that day, as if the players had put in so much effort that they couldn’t lift it for the match.”
He identifies the crucial score on Saturday, Danny Sutcliffe’s goal, as being emblematic of the change in attitude and the exuberance of youth.
“Danny’s goal – being a young lad he went for the goal – came when we really needed the score. When Dotsy O’Callaghan’s chance was blocked Danny got the ball and the cautious thing might have been to make sure of the point but he brushed past Tommy Walsh and hit it low into the net.”