Dublin crashed out of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship on Sunday with a whimper. Despite an impressive victory away in Wexford Park, the Dubs failed to fire against both Kilkenny and Tipperary. Questions now arise around the future of this team.
In 2008, Dublin exited the championship after two losses, but heads were held high having lost out to Wexford and Cork by three and five points respectively. Cue Anthony Daly. The two-time All-Ireland winning Clare captain took charge and took the boys in blue to their first Leinster final in 18 years.
Slowly but surely, morale rose in the camp, and dual players began to opt for the smaller ball. A league title and a semi-final appearance followed in 2011, and last year a Leinster title added to their progress. Simply, Daly owes the Dubs nothing. But often this team has failed to launch. Tame exits in the 2010, 2012, and now 2014 championships leave major blips on the record. The hunger has often been missing, and perhaps it is time for a fresh voice in the dressing room.
The tactics which have won this team their big games have also been criticised. Their short passing game at times works wonders when all links in the chain are putting in the extra 10%. But often it falls flat, as witnessed in Thurles on Sunday. Daly took over when Dublin were an inferior side, and deployed a sweeper effectively. However, it is no longer efficient. They must have more belief, and take on teams 15-v-15.
Dublin now sit at hurling’s top table, but must learn to act accordingly. The majority of these players have overcome Kilkenny at all levels, but suddenly feared them when the Leinster final swung round last month. Man for man, the Metropolitans can match anyone. The likes of Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe, and Liam Rushe are the envy of the entire country. Why then, have they often failed to make a big impact in games?
The depth of the Dublin footballers has been highly praised, but it is taking away from the hurlers. The likes of Tomás Brady and Cormac Costello dwell on the footballers’ bench, despite being potential valuable assets under Daly’s command. This has always been the way, and despite some high profile crossovers such as Shane Ryan and Keaney, in truth, they spent their best years with the big ball. More like Sutcliffe are needed to opt for hurling at a young age. A move from Diarmuid Connolly or Ciarán Kilkenny would give the team a further lift.
There is still a high standard of youth filtering through in the capital. Other than Keaney, it is only Stephen Hiney and Dotsy O’Callaghan who are in the twilight of their careers. Younger stars have been introduced year after year. Cian O’Callaghan and Colm Cronin were effective additions this term, with more to follow.
For years, Dublin were improving, and moral victories were aplenty. However, there is no longer any room for moral victories. It is time for results. Nothing less than Liam McCarthy will be deemed a success. The future has been bright for years. But it is no longer time to look ahead; the potential can be realised now. It is time to stand up and be counted.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.