Sky Blues manager’s former Clare colleagues endorse Daly’s reign in the capital
HERE are two perspectives on Anthony Daly – charismatic Clare leader turned Sky Blue commanderin- chief – on the eve of a potentially defining game in his stewardship of the Dublin hurling team.
“Knowing him as a player, he is a brilliant leader, a great talker and motivator, and you couldn’t but believe in everything he says,” remarks Stephen McNamara, an All-Ireland winning colleague from the ’90s who is now a club manager with Faughs in the capital.
“If he said ‘Jump into the Liffey’, I would nearly say they would all jump in … and they would all come out in new suits, knowing the luck that boy has!” Fr Harry Bohan may query that ‘lucky’ tag having served as a Clare selector during Daly’s close-but-no-cigar three-year reign in the mid-noughties.
“The Cork match – Mother of God!” he grimaces when the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final is broached. And yet Fr Harry sees Daly as the perfect fit for a young, upwardlymobile Dublin side seeking the next level: “He’s a rare fella,” the former Clare manager enthuses. “Anthony is a marvellous communicator. He has a massive rapport with players.
“He knows how to handle them. He has a massive knowledge of the game. He knows his own shortcomings too – he knows where to delegate.”
Two-and-a-half years into his new life as an adopted Dub, this most quintessential of Clare men has been embraced by the Sky Blue hurling fraternity as one of their own. Everyone has time for ‘Dalo’ – and not just because of his obvious people skills.
Results, my dear boy, results. With every positive performance this spring, the nightmare of Antrim last July recedes a little more.
Even the recent addiction to wides hasn’t sucked the air of positivity. And with one round to go, Dublin currently lie joint-second in the Allianz League Division One pecking order.
Reaching a league final remains a tall order – the simplest equation involves beating Cork on Leeside this Sunday and then hoping Galway don’t do likewise in Waterford.
McNamara doubtless echoes the feelings of many Claremen when preaching caution about a transitional Cork team with no prize to play for.
“They are the only county that could pull a team out of nowhere,” he warns. “For Cork, it’s their last game before championship and players will want to lay down a marker. It could be the last opportunity for a few of them.
“Knowing the Cork GAA man, they won’t lie down. “It will be a battle on Sunday.
“You might find, with 10 or 15 minutes to go, if Dublin are four or five up they could win by 10 because the Cork guys might say ‘let it off’.
“But if it’s score for score, Cork will want to win it. “If the (Dublin) minds aren’t right for a battle, if they think they are going to get anything soft in Cork this weekend, they’ll have another thing coming,” adds McNamara.
By a delicious quirk, Dublin’s last league final appearance (ending in a replay defeat) came against Clare all of 65 years ago. Both McNamara and Bohan share the belief that a first final since 1946 would be a significant milestone in the team’s development.
“The league is absolutely crucial for Dublin at the stage they are at,” says Bohan, who managed Clare to a losing final appearance in 1976 (their first since ’46) and then back-to-back league titles in the following two years.
“People used to tell us in the ’70s to forget about the league, but it was the league that actually brought us close to winning a couple of All-Irelands,” he adds, citing their close-run Munster final defeats by Cork’s legendary three-in-a-row team in ’77 and ’78.
This season McNamara has watched all of Dublin’s home games, both league and Walsh Cup. For the two Croke Park doubleheaders, he has spied a subtle shift in the supporters’ mindset: the hurling curtain-raiser has moved beyond mere aperitif to whet the big-ball appetite.
“The last day, lads actually left after the Kilkenny match. I was delighted when they equalised – I did jump up!” he admits, while quick to laugh off any ‘closet Dub’ connotations.
“Talking to Dalo afterwards,” he continues, “it reminded me an awful lot of those years in ’93, ’94, ’95 – the growth that went on with us (in Clare).
“There are a lot of parallels between the two teams. To see the belief growing and growing, and more and more leaders coming to the fore. Tomás Brady is a leader, Joey Boland, Stephen Hiney, Conal Keaney, Ryan O’Dwyer – six or seven lads in the team.”
More ominously, the loss of Hiney for the year and Boland for the coming weeks, coupled with several more longterm injuries, are “headaches you don’t need”.
McNamara also warns that the usual suspects (Tipperary, Kilkenny, Galway, Waterford, even Cork) are further down the development road; that Dublin are still learning the ropes.
But, he concludes: “If they got to a league final and then progressed to an All-Ireland quarter-final and had a good battling cut off someone there … that would have moved them on from Antrim (last summer). “And then next year, I would say, they would have a cut off anyone.”