Daly feeding on the confidence but steering clear of the hype


NHL DIVISION ONE FINAL DUBLIN REACTION:Dublin were happy to enjoy the victory but minds are already on the championship, writes KEITH DUGGAN

THE ODD thing was that after this day of days for Dublin hurling, it fell to two men with accents shaped by Munster land to explain what it all meant. In marched Ryan O’Dwyer, man of the match after yesterday’s thunderous match and bearing a cut on his mouth as a memento. After him, Anthony Daly sauntered in, grinning at the sight of his centre forward in full flow and quipping: “Ya never saw a shy Tipp fella, did ya.”

All the years of bitter enmity between Tipp and Clare fused into something wonderful for Dublin hurling. And maybe it was appropriate. This has been a local revolution, full of born and bred Dublin hurlers and O’Dwyer, as the new face on the scene, bore testimony to what it is that makes this group special.

“Amazing feeling. We are totally chuffed. You saw the excitement out there in the last few minutes. They are the best crowd in the world, I will admit that. If we could get them going to every game now. Get something going in the capital because when they started shouting, we started playing. When you are in the middle of the field, it is amazing to get that.

“There are no egos: that is the one thing about this team. There are no egos. Everyone knew that I wasn’t here to make up the numbers or to throw on a county jersey. I would do anything for those boys because they made me feel so welcome. Apart from the nicknames and stealing my phone and sending him texts.”

Daly nodded when the outcome of the league – which looked less than certain a fortnight ago – was put to him. Dublin set the tone and were the most consistent force, might have been squeezed out on the last day of play but won it in glorious fashion in the end. For the Dublin manager, the immediate task was to balance the pride in this achievement with the importance of the weeks ahead. Dublin have just a month to prepare for their championship meeting with Offaly.

“We are National League champions now, yeah. We play Offaly on May 29th and we have four weeks now to get ready for that now. They got a bit of a kick in the league and there is nothing more dangerous than a stung Offaly man.

“We have a job now to keep the focus and learn the lessons from other Dublin teams that maybe got caught up in the hype. But this was a confidence day.

“Can we play at the top level? We can play against the top teams but days like this may help to show us that.”

Daly’s allusions to his storied days in a Clare jersey have been infrequent. But his playing career, where he captained a team of outsiders who forced their way to the top is significant for a young Dublin team attempting to do the same. He shrugged when asked how this triumph compared with those he enjoyed with Clare.

“Sure, it is a bit different. One of the most disappointing days with Clare – there was lots of them – was the 1995 league final. We targeted that league and flopped in the final. Then when you go on and win an All-Ireland, the league does pale. And Ger never targeted the league after that.

“But it is a good day because it isn’t too long since we were over in the Cusack Stand dressingroom totally despondent after training hard for two years and wondering where we were going. It didn’t look like we were going too far. So in that way it is satisfying. It is only the 1st of May so there is a lot to go.”

One thing is certain. Tickets for Dublin’s next outing, scheduled for Parnell Park, will be at a premium. Hurling has never been as hot in the city. “A good crowd, yeah. Fair play. A great turn out today and they cheered the boys all the way. I felt that the people in Cork when we made the league final were the diehards. So we are delighted with this. It might mean a few extra supporters and if it does, we will deal with that. Happily.”