Keaney looking no further than league opener against Offaly
Conal Keaney: "We just got derailed too easily and we took our eye off the ball."
Even when you live in a goldfish bowl you can get knocked out by a blind corner or two. The Dublin hurlers should have been wiser to it, should have seen it coming, but they got caught out admiring themselves last year, basking in the achievements of a league title and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance the year before.
Despite being a former footballer who lived through the years when Dublin were talked up and then put down, Conal Keaney admits he didn’t have a sense their season was unravelling until it was too late.
“It’s easy to get sucked in to it,” he said, speaking at the Allianz hurling league launch in Belfast yesterday.
“There was this big wave after 2011. Coming into the following year, we were probably getting carried away with a lot of stuff and listening to the hype.
“The media and people were telling us we were number two or number three and that we were nearly better than other counties.
“It was nice to hear that kind of stuff but it was all irrelevant at the end of the day. We got caught up in it too much during the season and got carried away thinking we were something we weren’t.”
Relegation from the elite league was followed by a disastrous summer, ended prematurely by Clare in early days of July. With the benefit of hindsight, Keaney can now pin-point basic mistakes that were made early in the season.
“We forgot about the Walsh Cup, we didn’t think we needed to put our full team out in that and it kind of led on to us coming out on the wrong side of results in the league.
“We drew a few games, we lost a few by a point. We struggled all year by not concentrating on the bread and butter of what had made us so good in 2011.”
Still, Keaney is anxious not to apportion the blame onto the shoulders of Anthony Daly or the Dublin management team.
When Daly asked the players to consider whether they wanted him to stay on for a fifth year in charge, or start afresh with someone new, the response was unequivocal.
Keaney revealed: “We had a players’ meeting and everyone knew it wasn’t the management’s fault. A lot of it was player-driven and that’s the way it is in most inter-county teams.
“We just got derailed too easily and we took our eye off the ball. Hopefully that is a hard lesson learned from last year.”
The new season finds them in Division 1B with a league opener against Offaly in Parnell Park. For the Dublin hurlers of 2013, the next game is always going to be the most important game.
“We have totally boiled it all back down and our expectation now is on getting over the line against Offaly on Saturday night,” Keaney said. “We don’t look beyond it because if we look beyond it, we just fall at the hurdle every time.
“The footballers, when I was there, many times we always looked too far ahead and we always got caught. We haven’t really thought about anything except that we have prepared very well for the league and for the last few weeks it’s all been about Offaly.”