‘1-9 wouldn’t win you a minor match, never mind that’ – Anthony Daly

Dublin coach faces real test – how to lift hurlers who dramatically underperformed in Leinster hurling final

Dublin coach Anthony Daly during the Leinster hurling final againt Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho

Dublin coach Anthony Daly during the Leinster hurling final againt Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho

 

The great imponderable is you just don’t know. Some days the flame burns magnificently, on others dampness blankets everything. “This is the nearest thing to what James Connolly must have faced,” said Anthony Daly as we loaded our recording devices and took aim.

His natural lightness of being immediately punctuated a miserable day for Dublin hurling with some much-needed black humour. On May 12th, 1916 British soldiers brought the mortally-wounded trade unionist and republican leader to Kilmainham Gaol, strapped him to a chair before opening fire.

“He was on the way out anyway. They riddled him!”

Honest response

“1-9 wouldn’t win you a minor match, never mind that,” Daly admitted. “Ah, they were the better team. How we were within four points at half-time is hard to figure. Some heroic defending from Noly (Alan Nolan) out to Paul, Peter and Shane. All six backs. Especially delighted for (Stephen) Hiney’s individual performance. You know he’s been through a lot. Thought he had a great game.”

Hiney has come back from the brink of two cruciate ligament tears. “Just our touch,” he lamented. “Our touch looked very good in training, right up to the weekend, we played two matches Friday and Sunday, touch looked sharp. Have to do it on the day. Kilkenny did it on the day. They were strong and tough. Played very well. They deserved it.”

Can you sense this type of flatness, maybe last night or this morning? “No, no. We were just talking about it, after the parade Shane Martin (selector) said to me, ‘Everything is ready. I think’.

“But the great imponderable is you just don’t know. I’ve often been in tension filled rooms and fellas went out and hurled great. Sometimes there is no tension and you think everything is right. It just didn’t click into gear at all today. Credit to Kilkenny they have really shown they are entitled to be All-Ireland favourites over the last few weeks.”

The entire day felt sedated. The game was dead long before Kilkenny’s firing squad riddled Dublin with bullets. Jackie Tyrrell knew this when he punched the air in celebration of Conal Keaney being penalised for carrying early in the second half. Keaney was gone by the 50th minute. Danny Sutcliffe wasn’t fit. Gone after 41 minutes.

Kilkenny were not even the Kilkenny of their peak years.

“Of which?” Brian Cody asked us.

Peak years.

“Is this not our peak, no?

“Peak years? I don’t know when they were. I don’t look on it like that. I don’t see years as peak years. A peak year is when you win an All-Ireland final, regardless of what people might think that’s the objective of the exercise for everybody. Certainly we were a long way away from that last year. But it’s a huge challenge and we are just working away, diligently I suppose, there is good competition for places. There is good fluency in the panel. We’ll just continue to work away.”

Cody class

Leinster

Daly though is facing another unenviable challenge; how to lift hurlers who so dramatically underperformed?

“I’m not sure,” the Clare man replied. “You just appeal to their character. You say: ‘What we do we do now? Do we stand up? Are we going to have a lash off this? The easy option is just to say: ‘Ah, this wasn’t our year.’ But that won’t do in three weeks’ time. We just look for the characters in the room. And already, you can see it down there.

“They will have a good lash at it. I can’t say that for certain sitting here, but from what I’ve seen from them in the past when they’ve lost, they’ve picked up their heads and gone again and that’s what I hope will happen.”

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