Anthony Daly speed-dates championship possibilities
Ex-Clare and Dublin manager says Kilkenny and Waterford could have a big say this summer
Clare’s John Conlon: “If he is just out for the four weeks and back then, that could really stand to John for the summer because he got a nice bit of league time under his belt and looked very sharp,” said Daly. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Anthony Daly hits his stride quickly. After a quick, self-deprecating ‘what do you want to talk to me for?’ he settles into hurling talk, from the specific to the general.
Having disengaged from intercounty activity, the former Dublin and Clare manager spoke about his club involvement with Dublin’s Kilmacud Crokes, for whom the returning Rory O’Carroll this week reappeared at training, and moved on to broader topics as the league season approaches its endgame.
“I was in Ennis last Sunday and Jesus, it’s a long time since I would have said I missed playing, that seems like a dim and distant memory almost, but last Sunday was one of those days when you say, ‘Jeez, I’d love to turn back the clock and be out there’.
“There was an edge in the air, there was an edge in the stand and there was snow falling, the pitch was good and there was some of those games like Tipp and Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds, Jeez we were down pitchside covering it for RTÉ and it was pelting down and the strength of the guys!”
His RTÉ punditry keeps him close to what’s happening and the three-year trial format in the hurling championship has him enthusing over the big questions to be answered, starting in little over two months’ time.
“I kinda said it last year early that I felt that the team with the best back-up team – now you still need a great team and a great panel and Limerick had a great panel – but the back-up squad is nearly as important to get fellas right, and to rest the lads during the league, even.
“Because I actually think that John Conlon [Clare’s injured All Star full forward], while hopefully it’s not serious, if he is just out for the four weeks and back then, that could really stand to John for the summer because he got a nice bit of league time under his belt and looked very sharp.
“An oul break now mightn’t do him any harm, and if Tony [Kelly] got one now as well it mightn’t do any harm.”
Having believed that Kilkenny might have been in the restoration workshop a little longer, Daly now thinks that with a Leinster title and the short-cut that provides to an All-Ireland semi-final they could be even more ambitious.
“Outside of Limerick I don’t think anyone got as much out of last year as Brian Cody. I can’t believe that Wexford or maybe Tipp didn’t go all out to win the league [when] there was a trip to Australia for the winners. It would have been nice with a lot of young fellas coming through and you could build a training camp around that without breaking your county board.”
The spin-off from winning the 2018 league he feels has brought them on and after last year’s narrow, thrilling quarter-final defeat by Limerick, Daly sees more in them for this summer.
“That did so much for all these guys coming through and they were very prominent in the Fitzgibbon as well this year. The Ballyhale contingent is missing. Cillian [Buckley] is missing though I believe he might be struggling, time is getting tight for him. We played Dicksboro in a challenge game and they were saying it’s dragging on a bit and he’d be a massive blow. Would they be good enough to win? If they could win a Leinster title . . .”
Another potentially major influence on the championship that he sees is Waterford’s green light to play home fixtures in Walsh Park rather than a neutral venue, as happened last year. With a top-three finish in both provinces crucial, home advantage is so influential – only one team lost at their own venue last year.
“I think this whole Waterford thing has put the cat among the pigeons completely. With Clare like, we’ll go down there, a cauldron; will we get 2,000 tickets? You won’t be heard anyway because it’s a tough enough place to go in a league game never mind with that kind of situation. I think that has really blown it wide open.”