Nothing but McCarthy will do for Dubs fans after tastes of the big-time under Daly, writes Brian Barry.
2013 a breakthrough year for Dublin hurling at senior level, like 2011 and 2009 before it. In 2009, Anthony Daly took charge and brought them to to All-Ireland quarter-final. 2011, a league title and semi-final appearance were added. 2013 saw promotion back to the top tier of the league, and a first Leinster title in 52 years. So what will be deemed as progress from here?
The mindset has changed. In 2011, the crowd trudged out of Hill 16 in August happy that their team could compete, and come within four points, of All-Ireland Champions Tipperary. In 2013, the mood was a lot duller after a defeat in the final four. Although, a lot more disappointed, this disappointment signaled that the dark days are well and truly over for the hurling faithful in the capital. They have taken their place at hurling’s top table. To answer the question, the only thing that will be deemed as progress in 2014 is Liam McCarthy staying on the Liffey for the first winter since 1938.
Dublin enter 2014 with a heap of young talent coming through. The countless minor and u21 All-Ireland finals reached over the last few years has injected new life into the senior set-up. There is no longer a defeatist attitude going into championship ties with the traditional strongholds, such as Tipp and Kilkenny. These Dublin players have grown up facing these teams without fear, and beating them, so why should they know any different? Players like Sean McClelland, Cian O’Callaghan and Colm Cronin enter the camp this year, from the team who lost in a replay to Tipperary in the 2012 minor final. Household names on Daly’s team-sheet now find their places under threat going into the league. A good showing in the Walsh Cup, where they lost in the final to Kilkenny, leaves them in good stead going into February.
The Metropolitans find themselves back in Division 1A of the league, where they feel that they belong. Dublin has matured as a hurling county since Daly took over in 2009. They are no longer the whipping boys. The league is not a critical part of their year anymore, but rather a springboard for bigger things to come. It offers an opportunity to test new players against top-quality opposition. And while reaching the semi-finals of the league will of course be a goal, Daly will only have been talking about one thing in their first training back at Parnell Park; their Leinster Semi-final on the 14th June.
The Leinster Championship is more competitive than ever. Last year it even gave the Munster Championship a run for its money. In fact, the only game that didn’t go all the way to the death was the final, but it was such an historic and emotional affair that the contest did not detract from the occasion. Dublin have been dealt a kind draw, avoiding Kilkenny and Galway. Offaly will hope to finish the job which they failed to last year, and triumph over the Cats. Should Dublin come through their side unscathed, their final opponents will have had more top-class hurling under their belts, which is a worry, considering a lack of game practice cost them dear against Cork last year. Nonetheless, a reaching provincial decider gives them two bites of the cherry to reach a semi-final, where they will be eager to go third time lucky under Daly.
The 2014 NHL campaign opens for Dublin next week against Galway in Pearse Stadium. Without the Portumna contingent, Galway may be there for the taking. But the league is no longer the prize for Daly and co. The bar has been raised. September is the goal.
Pundit Arena, Brian Barry.
Featured Image By Tolivero (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.