Something's got to give as born winners pit their wits
The meeting of two Clare greats from the 1990s in a managerial capacity adds a fascinating angle to tonight’s clash of Clare and Dublin, writes KEITH DUGGAN
FOR CLARE hurling people who remember them as key elements in the fieriest defence to play the game, it is going to make a strange sight: Davy Fitzgerald and Anthony Daly on the outside of the sidelines and both possessed with the idea of outwitting the other man. For years, they were bound by one common belief: us against the world.
“It will be odd for supporters. Absolutely,” says Mike Deegan, who will be too wrapped up in his role as Clare selector to worry about the uniqueness of the occasion.
“But we had something similar when we had Ger Loughnane on the opposition sideline. So it happens. There is the fact that Davy and Anthony know each other so well. But I don’t think there will be anything in it once the game starts.”
Nonetheless, tonight’s intriguing qualifying game in Ennis is as good a measure as any of the strength of character running through that Clare team of the mid 1990s. Fitzgerald’s return to his native Clare, after a glittering CV at Fitzgibbon Cup level and four seasons with Waterford that were defined by memorable extremes of both shining and black days has been one of the most entertaining stories in hurling over the past few years.
Daly, meanwhile, brought the forthright confidence that distinguished him as a player and manager with Clare into the Dublin dressingroom and the metropolitans responded by winning a first league title in 63 years. Suddenly, the idea of Dublin again winning the MacCarthy Cup did not seem so far-fetched.
In Daly, Dublin had found a perfect fit. With these two meeting tonight for a crucial knock-out match in Ennis, the old conundrum rears its head. Are managers born or made? When Mike McNamara thinks back to those dimly remembered training nights in Crusheen, sessions which acquired a kind of notoriety because of the savage demands they made on the players, he says the signs were there – but only in retrospect.
“At the time, of course, you wouldn’t look at it like that: they were players and they were treated like players and expected to behave like players. But in hindsight, when you look back, one would have seen that both of them had huge leadership qualities.
“Maybe Davy to the lesser extent at that time because he wasn’t captain and therefore he wasn’t the high-profile spokesperson that Anthony was.
“In a strange way, they have different personalities. They both have passion but Anthony Daly shows it in a calmer way. What comes with passion is usually success or at least performances that they can be proud of.
“Both those guys were always hurt by failure. Both of them were on Clare teams that were annihilated in games, particularly in high profile Munster games. And that would have made a lasting impression on both of them. So their attitude would always be that while they may be beaten, there will be nothing lacking in preparation or intensity or passion.
“There will be no grey areas when they are in charge. So that is why Anthony Daly, after the Kilkenny game, was so hurt. You could see it. It wasn’t the defeat. It was the fact that they had played beneath themselves. That would be a very hurtful thing for either of those boys.”