CONOR MCKEON – 23 JANUARY 2014 02:30 PM
Dotsy counting on substance overstyle as Daly’s charges chase ‘ultimate dream’.
IT has, over the past decade, been one of the quirks of inter-county football that the greeting of a New Year has spawned the wanton and widespread aping of whichever team had won the previous September’s All-Ireland.
Remember 2007? When, post Kieran Donaghy, almost every manager attempted to convert a midfielder or, in some cases, their full-back into a target-man?
Well then go back a bit to 2003, as, almost to a manager, the leading brains in the sport reckoned they were just a Kieran McGeeney-style sweeper away from mounting the steps of the Hogan Stand.
Or, more recently, the advent of the free-taking goalkeepers in every county, just a few months after it was, in the opinion of some free thinkers, seen as a stain on the standard of kickers on the Dublin panel that their goalkeeper was forced to amble forward and conduct such nonchalant heroics.
Hurling though, has never been much of a test case for such trends. Partly because, for the past decade, one team of such inimitable excellence ruled such an exclusive roost yet it remains to be seen if Clare’s style – so far removed from Kilkenny’s – and success will prove a literal game-changer in 2014.
“I suppose every team will look at them a little bit and maybe pick up one or two things,” says David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan. “But everyone develops their own certain style that suits them.
“Clare came up with a style that suited them but you have to look at your own strengths and see what suits that best.”
In truth, Dublin were well travelled down the road Davy Fitzgerald has brought his team before the Banner County’s emergence as a truly serious force.
Over the past couple of seasons in particular Anthony Daly has repeatedly trained his team to generate and utilise space, rather than automatically opting for long, early lottery ball.
“Ultimately, if you have the ball, you don’t want to give it away if you don’t have to,” O’Callaghan notes.
“If you see a man in a better spot or a more advanced spot, that is the right option to do. It all comes down to option taking.”
Still, provided there is no great sea change from Kilkenny, the year ahead should make for intriguing contrasts of styles.
“I just think every team will be coming back and trying to go strong at it,” says O’Callaghan.
“You could say the same thing about Tipperary, I suppose, as well.
“Obviously Kilkenny have had a phenomenal record over the last few years.
“It comes back to, it should be exciting for hurling fans. It’s maybe more open than it has been in the past.” he adds.
The St Mark’s man, who started Tuesday night’s Walsh Cup quarter-final win over UCD but was subbed at half-time due to the arrival of what he describes as “a bit of cramp on the hamstring”, admits winning an All-Ireland is “the ultimate dream but it’s not something we’ll really be talking about during the year.”
Harking back to last year’s loss to Cork in the semi-final, O’Callaghan attributes “a lot of errors, basic ones,” as the primary reason for failure.”
Noting the re-appearance of so many regulars so early in the year on Tuesday night, O’Callaghan concludes: “I suppose everyone wants some degree of a settled team but it will all come down to who is showing up well.
“The management have laid that out to us – that whoever is performing and showing well up in training and games will be the one who gets the jersey.
“Everyone in our squad knows that now, so it’s something to aim for.”